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Nov 17, 2008

How to Recognize Symptoms of Early-Stage Alzheimer's Disease

What kinds of behaviors should you expect from a loved one who has just been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's disease? Here 10 common symptoms of early Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's disease is progressive, meaning it worsens over time. It is also terminal, meaning all who develop it will eventually succumb to it. As Alzheimer's rides its course, it renders those who suffer from it increasingly dependent on the care of others. This is true for all people who develop Alzheimer's, but the particular symptoms and the degree to which they show themselves vary among individuals.

For convenience, the progression of Alzheimer's is often divided into three stages: early/mild, middle/moderate, and late/severe. The symptoms and signs of Alzheimer's have been identified by observing people with Alzheimer's disease as a group.

An individual may not show all of the symptoms in each stage of progression. For example, many -- but not all – Alzheimer's patients develop severe psychiatric problems, such as delusions and hallucinations. Among those who do, the symptoms appear in the middle to late stages of Alzheimer's.

It may help friends and family to familiarize themselves with the typical stages of Alzheimer's disease so that they know what to expect in the coming years. The early/mild stage of Alzheimer's is characterized by declining ability to form new memories, impaired ability to organize and manipulate complex ideas, and, sometimes, by personality changes.

Symptoms Mild Dementia/Early Stage Alzheimer's disease

     Diminished short-term memory
     Misplacing belongings in odd places; losing valuable belongings, like wallet or purse
     Difficulty finding the right word: "Tip of the tongue" syndrome
     Person seems "not himself" and shows uncharacteristic behaviors
     Lapses in judgment
     Difficulty with mental arithmetic and handling money
     Disorientation in unfamiliar places or situations
     May become apathetic or withdrawn, avoiding social situations
     More difficulty with routine tasks at work or at home, or may take longer to complete tasks
     Irritation or anger in response to increasing memory lapses

Specific Examples
     Asks the same question repeatedly within the same conversation
     Puts car keys away in refrigerator
     Unable to recall word for "car" and then says in frustration, "The thing you drive to work in."
     A normally shy person becomes uncharacteristically outgoing or talkative at a family gathering
     Agrees to buy services or products he/she doesn't need from telephone sales person
     Finds it difficult to balance checkbook or figure out correct amount of money to pay for an item
     while shopping Forgets to eat, skips meals, or eats the same food every meal