What to expect
The early stage of Alzheimer’s disease (also referred to as “mild Alzheimer’s disease”) marks a beginning that will bring with it important changes for you and the people who care about you. Some people aren’t aware that they have the disease during this stage, and they may not be diagnosed until they are past it.
When you are diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease, you will likely be still able to keep doing much of what you have been able do and you will probably only need a bit of help during this stage. You may be able to understand how your abilities are changing. If this happens, you can tell others what it is like for you to live with the disease. You can help to plan and direct the care you will need in the future.
You may also be feeling overwhelmed and scared or nervous about the future. It is normal for both you and your family to have many mixed emotions. These can include feelings of grief and sadness. Many people are concerned about how the changes will affect them, how they will plan for the future and get the help and information they need. The following are suggestions for living life to the fullest. Please note that the term “early stage” refers to people of any age who have mild impairments as a result of Alzheimer’s disease. This is different from the term “early onset,” which refers to people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at a younger age than usual.
|Common Symptoms||Helpful Strategies|
|Difficulty learning new things and following conversations||
|Difficulty concentrating or limited attention span||
|Problems with orientation, getting lost, not being able to follow directions||
|Difficulty handling problems at work||
|Mood changes, depression||
|Mild co-ordination problems||
|Difficulty doing challenging cognitive (thinking) tasks||
|Difficulty making decisions||
|Increased or decreased sexual desire||
Changes in your abilities
One way to cope with the changes is to focus on what you are still able to do, and to continue to participate in activities that are meaningful to you. There may come a time when you will have to accept help from family members and friends. If you let them know what is needed, they can assist in maintaining your independence.
Some changes you will experience
Memory loss You may find that you do not remember a person’s name at the time, but the name comes to you later. Or you start talking to someone and in mid-sentence you forget what you were talking about.
Communication problems You may find yourself reaching for a word but it is not there. Or you intend to say one word but a different word comes out.
Difficulty performing tasks You may find yourself getting frustrated trying to do things you used to be able to do, like following a recipe, using woodworking or craft tools, turning on the correct burner on the stove, balancing a cheque-book.
Disorientation or confusion about time and place One person experiencing time disorientation speaks of showing up at church an hour early. Another person with place disorientation is hesitant to take buses for fear of getting off at the wrong stop.
Visual perception problems You may be looking straight at an object, but you cannot identify it. For example, with money, you may have difficulty telling one coin from another.
Spatial perception problems You may have difficulty walking up and down stairs because you are misjudging the height of the stairs or the distance between them.
Poor or decreased judgment When judgment is affected in Alzheimer’s disease, you may choose clothing that is not appropriate for the weather. Or not understand why it may not be safe for you to continue driving.
Some suggestions for adjusting to changing abilities
We asked individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease for their advice on how to adjust to changing abilities. Here are some of their suggestions:
- “Write things down in a notebook when you are in a conversation.”
- “Use Post-it Notes.”
- “Do one thing at a time.”
- “Use loud, noisy timers to remind you that you have something on the stove.”
- “Take your time and tell others to give you time.”
- “Don’t be shy to ask for help.”
- “Keep busy. Find things to do that you enjoy.”
- “If you no longer enjoy reading, try talking books, audiotapes and videotapes.”
- “If church services are too crowded, find out which services have less people.”
- “Join a support group. You can commiserate with others. It reduces the isolation.”
All about me is a resource intended for people with dementia to provide health-care providers with information about themselves. The booklet can be filled by the person with dementia or with help from their caregiver to provide a snapshot of the person – information about them as an individual, such as needs, preferences, likes, dislikes and interests.
This resource will enhance the quality of care and support provided by community workers as they get to know the person or while she adjusts to a new home.