The Early Stages of Alzheimer’sFebruary 25, 2020
On the most recent episode of Caregiver Crossing the Podcast, we talked with Lisa Phillips, Program Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter, about the early stages of Alzheimer’s: the signs, the conversations and the benefit to an early diagnosis.
What are the signs? In addition to symptoms like memory loss that disrupts your daily life, Lisa also describes the common sign of a person having difficulty with familiar tasks. “Driving to the grocery store, driving to the hairdresser, these things that you once did all the time now become a lot more difficult.” Some other signs may come up during activities, such as not remembering the rules to a familiar game that is played on a regular basis.
Another sign is difficulty with language. Lisa gives the example of a loved one trying to describe the watch on their wrist and calling it a “hand clock.”
Something that can be a difficult change for families is a change in personality or moods. The loved one that always had the quiet, easy-going disposition may suddenly be frequently frustrated or angry.
Having the conversation. The first step, Lisa explains, is to determine the best person to have that conversation with the person displaying the early signs of Alzheimer’s. “We recommend it not being a group of people,” Lisa says. “Because then that loved one can feel that they are being ganged up on. It’s really important to make sure that they are not feeling overwhelmed or threatened.” Lisa also adds the importance of having that conversation in a safe, quiet, and familiar place.
The Alzheimer’s Association also provides a wonderful resource of conversation starters, which can be found at https://ourstories.alz.org/
What are the benefits to an early diagnosis? “That loved one knows that something is not right,” Lisa explains. “By giving that feeling a voice and giving it a diagnosis, it answers some of their own fears that they might be having and can’t express.”
Lisa also mentions some of the medical benefits to an early diagnosis. In addition to treatments that can alleviate some of the symptoms, an early diagnosis can also allow people to participate in clinical trials. These trials can help continue the search for a cure for Alzheimer’s and help to progress the research that is currently being done.
From our perspective here at Joy’s House, we see every day how connecting with organizations like ours can really help families in immense ways during these early stages, by providing support to caregivers and loving care to the adults living with their new diagnosis.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers a 24/7 free and confidential helpline that is run by master-level social workers that can guide a family through the process. We hope that everyone who may be finding themselves on this journey with a loved one the strength and courage to take the next steps, and we urge you to rely on the people and organizations that are here to support you through it all, like the Alzheimer’s Association and Joy’s House.