Early Alzheimer’s symptoms usually begin around 60 to 65 years of age, and are not part of the normal aging process. The early (or mild) stage of Alzheimer’s disease usually lasts for 2 to 4 years.
Early Alzheimer’s Symptoms vs. Normal Aged Forgetfulness
According to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, over half of individuals 65 years of age and over experience some cognitive challenges, such as difficulty recalling names or the location of personal items. This is known as “normal aged forgetfulness.”
Alzheimers’ early signs are often mistaken for normal aged forgetfulness, until the disease has progressed to the point where symptoms worsen and can no longer be mistaken for normal aging.
Normal aged forgetfulness does not necessarily indicate the presence of Alzheimer’s. However, according to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, recent evidence suggests that individuals who exhibit signs of normal aged forgetfulness demonstrate greater rates of decline than their peers who do not experience normal aged forgetfulness.
Early Alzheimer’s Symptoms
The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research reports that approximately 5 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 74 suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Approximately 50 percent of those over 85 years of age suffer from Alzheimer’s.
Early Alzheimer’s symptoms may include:
- Asking the same question repeatedly
- Decline in organizational abilities
- Decreased attention span
- Difficulty finding the right words to express thoughts and feelings
- Difficulty managing money
- Difficulty remembering recent events
- Disorientation (even in familiar places)
- Forgetting information with increasing frequency
- Frequently misplacing belongings (items may turn up in unusual places, such as car keys in the fridge)
- Lack of motivation
- Mood and behavioral changes (i.e. angry, irritable, quiet or withdrawn)
- Poor or reduced judgment
- Resistance to change
- Shying away from making decisions
- Struggling to follow the train of thought in a conversation
- Struggling to think logically
- Trouble performing new or routine tasks
- Withdrawal from social situations.
Receiving an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
An individual may make excuses for her early Alzheimer’s symptoms, unwilling to consider that she may have Alzheimer’s disease. She may even genuinely fail to notice her symptoms.
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is a devastating blow to both the person with the disease and her family. Initial reactions may include denial, anxiety and fear, which can lead to depression, grief and even shame.
The affected individual may require counseling to help him accept the diagnosis and to motivate him to begin treatment. Counseling can also help those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s to make healthy lifestyle choices that will help to slow the progression of the symptoms as much as possible.
Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.) Early-stage issues. Retrieved June 12, 2010, from http://www.alz.org/professionals_and_researchers_early_stage.asp.
Alzheimer Society of Canada. (n.d.) What is Alzheimer’s disease? Retrieved April 23, 2010, from http://www.alzheimer.ca/english/disease/whatisit-intro.htm.
American Health Assistance Foundation. (n.d.) Alzheimer’s symptoms and stages. Retrieved June 10, 2010, from http://www.ahaf.org/alzheimers/about/symptomsandstages.html.
Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. (n.d.) Alzheimer’s stages