What to Expect in the Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease

Portrait of senior woman with Alzheimers
Early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. Westend61 / Getty Images

Early stage Alzheimer’s is also referred to as early dementia, mild cognitive impairment, and mild Alzheimer’s disease.

The early stages of Alzheimer’s disease is often a time when you might first become aware that you may have a memory problem. Perhaps you have been writing small memory lapses off as normal for your age, or just assuming they were not something to worry about. Or, maybe a family member suggested that you get evaluated by a physician and you have just received the news that they suspect you have Alzheimer’s.


It’s normal for your feelings to vary frequently and significantly. As the shock passes, you might feel angry or not believe your diagnosis, or be gripped by depression at the news. Adjusting to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis takes time. You may feel more tired than usual since processing the emotions associated with this can use up a lot of energy. Knowing what to expect can help by preparing you for the next steps.

Letter From a Friend with Alzheimer’s


The course of Alzheimer’s varies for everyone, but in general, some common symptoms in the early stages of Alzheimer’s include the following:

  • Decreased attention span
  • Getting lost in a familiar setting
  • Difficulty with learning new things
  • Difficulty with making decisions


Typically, early or mild Alzheimer’s can last about two to four years before progressing to the middle stage (moderate) Alzheimer’s disease.

Upcoming Decisions

You will need to consider several different decisions as you adjust to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

  • Treatment Choices: There are a few medications available to treat the early stages of Alzheimer’s. While they don’t cure Alzheimer’s, they can slow the progression of the disease for some people. Talk with your doctor and your family about what the right choice for you may be.
  • Power of Attorney for Finances: If you haven’t already, take the time to designate someone to serve as your financial power of attorney. This person should be someone you trust completely so they can help you with your bills or banking needs if you need assistance.
  • Power of Attorney for Healthcare (Patient Advocate):You should also decide who you would like to make decisions if the time comes when you are not able to make them independently. Some healthcare power of attorney documents also have the option of a living will, where you can outline your choices for treatment and medical decisions.

Support from Others

Finally, you hopefully can expect support and love from your family and friends around you. You might also benefit from a support group where you can meet with others who are in similar situations and share with each other how best to cope with Alzheimer’s.


Alzheimer’s Association. Seven Stages of Alzheimer’s. Accessed June 26, 2012. ​http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_stages_of_alzheimers.asp

Alzheimer’s Disease Research. Alzheimer’s Symptoms and Stages. Accessed June 26, 2012. http://www.ahaf.org/alzheimers/about/symptomsandstages.html

Alzheimer’s Society Canada. Early Stage. Accessed June 26, 2012. http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/Living-with-dementia/I-have-dementia/Early-stage