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Early Stage Symptom: Difficulty with Tasks

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, you may experience a variety of symptoms that seem like normal aging at first glance. As these symptoms become more consistent or more prominent, you or your close family members or co-workers might suspect there might be something else going on. One of these symptoms is having difficulty with familiar tasks. You might suddenly find yourself struggling with tasks at work, when you used to complete them without a second thought. You might find that it takes you longer to do things that you’ve always done because of trouble with thinking or planning. This is not typical age-related cognitive difficulty, and may signal that there’s something else going on, including possibly Alzheimer’s disease.

When to see your doctor

If you notice yourself struggling more at work with tasks, or even having trouble at home with things you used to do with ease, call your doctor. This includes things like using a household appliance, following a recipe, opening a car window, and typical everyday things.1 This is not part of typical aging, and can signify something more serious. Your doctor should do a thorough medical exam to rule out things like malnutrition or nutritional deficiencies or adverse reaction to medication. You might also want to see a memory disorders specialist or neurologist, who specialize in disorders of the brain. They will run imaging tests if necessary and perform cognitive testing to provide them with a more in-depth look at your cognitive strengths and challenges. It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis that explains your neurological symptoms so that you can get the appropriate treatment plan in place.

Treatment

There are medications for cognitive difficulties associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s important to note that these do not cure the cognitive impairments, nor do they slow down the progression of the disease. These medications may help to minimize the cognitive symptoms, which include memory loss and problems with thinking and reasoning, for a period of time.2 In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, cholinesterase inhibitors are often used for cognitive symptoms. These drugs include the brand name drugs Aricept, Exelon, and Razadyne.2 The medications help facilitate communication between nerve cells in the brain, helping with cognitive difficulties. Most people are able to tolerate the medication.

As your Alzheimer’s progresses, you might want to talk with your doctor about other medications that are approved for more advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as lifestyle adaptations and more hands-on caregiving to assist you with various everyday tasks.

If you’re noticing that you’re having difficulty with tasks that were once familiar and easy, talk with your doctor as soon as possible. The sooner you can get evaluated and get an accurate diagnosis, the sooner you can begin treatment and get the assistance you need to help maintain your quality of life. Even if you’re only having minor impairment with these tasks right now, talk with your partner or caregiver about how you’d like assistance as your disease progresses. Over time, these tasks will become harder and harder as the cognitive impairments become more severe. It’s important that treatments and adaptations or adequate assistance are put in place, to help you maintain functioning in everyday life.

Written by: Jaime Rochelle Herndon | Last reviewed: June 2019
  1. Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. Alzheimer’s Symptoms. 2019. https://www.alzinfo.org/articles/alzheimers-symptoms/ Accessed April 15, 2019.
  2. Alzheimer’s Association. Medications for Memory. 2019. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/treatments/medications-for-memory Accessed April 15, 2019.