The early stage of dementia refers to people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, or even prior to a diagnosis, and are in the beginning stages of the disease. The initial diagnosis can come as a huge shock and heavily affect people who love and care about them. During the early stages, the person can still function mostly independently, however a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills might be evident as the condition affects their brain.
Loved ones will find themselves in a new and unfamiliar role as they try to navigate a diagnosis and resultant changes in behaviour. For people who are lucky enough to get an early diagnosis, family members have the opportunity to provide support from the offset and make decisions about the future together. If you suspect a loved one might have the condition, or if they’ve been recently diagnosed, read Understanding the 10 warning signs and symptoms of dementia.
What does early-stage dementia look like?
The early signs of dementia are very subtle and vague and may not be immediately obvious. Early symptoms and their extent may vary from individual to individual. Memory loss is the most obvious sign of the onset of dementia but dementia goes beyond this. Some of the early symptoms may include being unable to perform tasks that were familiar, such as paying bills or following a recipe. You might also notice personality changes like emotional outbursts. If someone is in the early stages of dementia, they may even notice these changes in themselves. It’s important to note that the first step is to get a diagnosis from a healthcare practitioner who is experienced in this field. Read Recognising early dementia signs to understand the symptoms.
How can I support someone with early-stage dementia?
One of the greatest challenges caregivers and family members tend to face in the early stage is determining how much assistance to give their loved one, who at this stage will likely still be independent in many ways. Here are some tips to support your loved one with early-stage dementia:
- Maximise independence – In the early stage, focus on helping them through things like cues and reminders when they might find it difficult to recall things. Things like gentle reminders, making sure they’re keeping to their routines like taking all their meds and even just checking on how they’re handling responsibilities from time to time.
- Understanding emotions – You’re at the beginning of a long road of the emotional process your loved one will go through as they advance through the condition. Here you need to lay the groundwork by learning to deal with and control your own emotions and see what can trigger their own emotional reactions and behaviour.
- Helping the person with dementia live well – Remaining healthy, active and independent is as important as ever for someone with Alzheimer’s as it can greatly improve their quality of living.
- Cognitive stimulation through activities – A memory-care focused lifestyle goes a long way in best conserving your loved ones memory bank and actively engaging the individual to stimulate their cognitive abilities.
Communication difficulties and behavioural problems, depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation and a number of other problems that may be associated with dementia, can be reduced or minimized when the loved one is able to participate in enjoyable and creative activities on a regular basis, within a structured daily program. Livewell Estates offers personalised programmes to ensure a memory-care focused lifestyle by actively engaging with each individual’s needs and addressing their unique concerns. Through a series of rewarding activities, residents will find themselves being socially, cognitively and physically stimulated. Upon admission, each resident and their family is interviewed by our occupational therapists in order to develop their own personalised activities and support programs.
If you have the option to put your loved one in a care facility, you have the added reassurance that they will receive the support they need every step of the way. The benefit of an early diagnosis is that you and the person living with dementia now have the opportunity to make decisions about the future together, which can reduce anxiety about the unknown and lead to better outcomes for everyone involved.