Memory loss can be scary, but patience, trust, and encouragement can help your loved one continue living a meaningful life.
Every stage of Alzheimer’s is unique
You might assume anyone with Alzheimer’s is unable to keep up with a conversation, but that’s not the case. Those in the early stages have memory problems that make it easy to get lost or forget conversations, while personality changes or agitation might show up during the middle stages, says Mary Mittelman, DrPH, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Family Support Program and research professor in the department of psychiatry at NYU Langone. When the late stage hits, your loved one might have trouble getting dressed or eating. “Symptoms of Alzheimer’s change over time,” Dr. Mittelman says. “If I say something about the early stage, it’s not relevant to the middle stage.”
Life is still pretty normal in the early stage
“I lead a largely normal life, but there are specific areas where I rely on a planner or alarm clock or smartphone,” says Eric Thompson, advisor on the Early-Stage Advisory Group for the Alzheimer’s Association. After receiving his diagnosis about four years ago, he had to retire and make a few changes to his routine, like taking care of his checklist of daily chores first thing in the morning so he doesn’t forget, but he says people are shocked by how well he remembers conversations. Don’t miss this breakthrough that could reverse Alzheimer’s.
I might notice my symptoms more than you do
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During the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the changes in memory might be so subtle that you wouldn’t notice unless you spent a fair amount of time around the person. But that doesn’t mean you should undermine the condition or assume things haven’t gotten harder. “Half a dozen people have said, ‘You don’t have Alzheimer’s,’ and they say, ‘You seem normal,’” Thompson says. “After they’ve been around me for a while, I’ll see them a week later and they say they told me that the last time we talked. There’s something wrong, something different.” These are 10 of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease.