Worried that my mother may have very early stages of Alzheimer's


Registered User
Apr 29, 2007

My mother is 72, she lives with my father who is 82. For their age, they are both brilliant - totally independent and in good health.

Recently (over the last few weeks), my mother has started to show very minor signs of short term memory loss. At first, I attributed this to some pain medicine prescribed by her GP - but now I don't think that this was the cause.

The main symptom my mother has is asking about something I have already told her about. This may be in regard to one thing we have discussed over a 30 minute period. In all other respects she is fine, able to function and cope as normal and to recall things without error.

There is also very minor signs of confusion regarding a series of visits she has made to the GP (not remembering which symptom occurred when). But this was at the time she was receiving prescribed medicine.

I want to stress that these symptoms are very minor, but my father has also noticed them, which makes me worry.

I've been searching the web for information - I don't want to be alarmist, but at the same time I don't want to ignore something that may be potentially serious.

I hoped I would fine information that said very mild short term memory loss could just be sign of getting older and didn't mean the onset of a progressive decease.
But I haven't found any such information to reassure me.

Unfortunately, it seems that the most people with these very early symptoms will worsen overtime and develop Alzheimer’s decease.

I would be grateful if others could tell me how they first noticed symptoms and how long it was before these became more serious?



Registered User
Feb 24, 2006
Hi and welcome to TP

It's hard for me to answer your question from my own experience. My mum is 86 years old and has had dementia for a number of years. However, I honestly can't remember when we first started to suspect something was wrong. My mum has always been a bit 'dizzy' so it is hard to say when the dizziness ended and something more serious began. That may sound flippant but is honestly not meant in that way, as I know this is a serious matter.

I would think that people whose loved ones have not been affected for so long will remember more clearly how things started. Especially those who live with the affected person.


Registered User
Feb 17, 2006
I would be grateful if others could tell me how they first noticed symptoms and how long it was before these became more serious?

All I can remember that when it got so bad that mum was double incontinent wondering the street getting lost and not talking to me , just looking at me that I relished something was wrong , as I never new anything about dementia systems or AZ

Took her to the doctor , then consultant brain scan and given medication for late stages of AZ that stop all those systems, all that back now 5 years on is the wondering
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Registered User
Nov 28, 2005
Hello: Everyone is different and it is important to know that memory loss can be caused by a host of things - thyoid disorder, stress, medication, diabetes and all manor of things.

However my husband does have mixed dementia. I first became aware of his confusion, memory loss etc around 2000. At the same time he was more bad tempered than normal and aggressive. Also unfamiliar with his directions - previously exceptionally good driver and no need for maps etc. Lost a lot of paperwork - spent more time than normal writing letters, checking things over and over again. This just got gradually worse when in 2002 he agreed to see doc etc. - then took 2 yrs before diagnosis was given and medication prescribed. Since then just general downward slide.

This sound very depressing now I have typed it all out - its not all so bad all the time. It may be worth a check with gp. who should do loads of checks to eliminate everything else before going down the Alz track.

Sorry to ramble but hope this helps a little. Beckyjan


Registered User
Jun 27, 2006
Like Brenda, I'll recount my own experience. At 80, my mother obtained an OU degree, and although a bit arthritic was essentially fine. At 85, I noticed some very minor short term memory loss (forgotton conversations, forgotton telephone calls). The next time I visited I took her to the doctor and the verdict was natural aging. This continued for the next 3 years, and in truth, I thought it might be a lack of contact with other people: when I was staying with her her memory definitely seemed to improve. Then when she was 88 she had 2 strokes within 24 hours. On admission to hospital (after the second one - they sent her home with paractemol after the first one :mad: ) a scan showed the new damage and also another stroke several years before. This was what had caused the memory loss I had seen. If I had known that then, I might have been able to help her avoid the subsequent strokes: the short-term memory loss meant that she failed to take her blood-pressure medication which I found all over the house. If either the doctor or I had addressed this issue I could have put a system in place to ensure the meds were taken. It might not have made a difference, but it might have.

So, don't take this lightly- although sometimes doctors will talk about memory loss as being a natural part of aging, everything I've read leads me to believe that it is always due to some organic disease. The disease may not be treatable, but it's there.


Grannie G

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 3, 2006
Hi Becky Jan.

My husband too was aggressive and bad tempered years before he was diagnosed. At first I thought he was becoming a grumpy old man, but then he became very difficult to live with and I thought we were at the end of our marriage.

That was around 2000. He was diagnosed in 2005.


Registered User
Aug 9, 2005
keyboarder said:
I would be grateful if others could tell me how they first noticed symptoms and how long it was before these became more serious?
My Mum was always one for repeating her self! Our family would roll their eyes and go "One of Gran's stories - again!!". But gradually she began to forget things more and more, including things she had just been told or had just told us herself. She started to forget simple things, like when one of us would be visiting. She covered up well, saying things like "Oh is it today you are visiting? I thought it was Tuesday? Never mind, it is lovely to see you."

So for a long time we didn't realise she was declining, except in the ordinary way peope do as they age.

She took "forever" to do simple tasks, often saying things like "I'm just so busy". We couldn't understand what she found to keep herself busy with, but we didn't pay too much attention. I think we are so used to seeing our mothers cope, we don't realise at first that they are not doing so well now.

The first real indication I had that all was really not as it should be was when Mum put meat which should have been in the freezer into the ordinary fridge. Jack Blunt (me!) says: "Mum, what's this meat doing in the fridge?? It should be in the freezer!". But instead of acknowledging that was the case, she looked vague and asked "Why should it be in the freezer?" Alarm bells started to ring.

Other indications included:

not being able to find a place she had driven to previously, altho' it was not difficult to find

forgetting her PIN number for the bank - eventually the bank asked my sister to "do something" about Mum!

being completely unable to use a microwave oven - she had always refused to have one of those "newfangled" things! - but eventually my sister persuaded her it would make her life easier. She agreed, but simply couldn't learn how to use it. Also she blamed the microwave when things didn't turn out right. One famous remark was "that microwave makes the porridge too salty!".

some of her stories started getting confused - facts from one story would get mixed up with another. She started getting confused about timelines. Got most upset with me one day because I couldn't remember a friend of her's from HER childhood!

Obviously everyone's stories are different - but I think (looking back on it) that it took us a long time to realise that what Mum had was more than just memory loss. It was so subtle at first that we would just think "Oh, she's tired" or something and overlook the symptoms. I would say this probably went on for 18 months to 2 years before we faced facts and realised there was something really wrong.

I hope this long story gives you an idea of one person's decline into dementia. She has now been diagnosed for about 2 years and gets steadily worse, but can still be amazingly good on some days. That is one of the most confusing parts of this disease - it is not constant! We can think things are going badly with Mum, then she'll have a good day and we can hardly believe she has dementia.

Wishing you the best possible outcome for your Mum, whatever the cause/s of her confusion and memory loss. Nell
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Registered User
Nov 7, 2004
Hi Keyboarder

Mum was 85 when dad died after a long illness. Dad had always looked after all the bills etc., but mum had seemed to cope well with all the challenges that her husbands illness had brought. As soon as dad died I tried to give mum lots of help to cope, but found that, whilst in most respects she was OK, you could take her out shopping and she would constantly check for her keys and purse. She would also say exactly the same thing to the shop assistants. “ Lovely day today… Do you scan things when you are trying to get to sleep… this is my lad who comes to see me every Friday for his Fish and Chips”. I thought it was probably the effects of grieving, but I mentioned it to her doctor twice a year for 2 years and was always told she was OK. Then one day she went to see the Nurse for her Flue jab. She asked the nurse (who she had known for years) if she liked working at the practice (in a way that suggested the nurse was new to the area).The Nurse decided there was a problem and got the doctor to take the problem seriously. To cut a long story short, we had all the tests, and she got on to Aricept. The slow decline took a further 5 years before we decided mum needed to go into a residential home. We were lucky in that mum just slowly lost the use of her memory with all that comes with that.

My advice is to take things day by day, but keep reminding the doctor of your concerns. If it is Alzheimer’s remember that your mum will slowly change. She will need your love and support, but may not be able to appreciate what you are doing for her. It can be very very hard to be told you have never visited etc. etc.

Also have you got the Enduring Power of Attorney set up. You will need it in years to come to look after your mums affairs.

Best wishes



Registered User
Feb 24, 2006
My mother's illness started very gradually, she was becoming socially more and more withdrawn, had quarrelled with neighbours with whom she'd been friendly for years, got through home helps rather fast (at the time we blamed them), asked me to bring certain foodstuffs when she had plenty in the fridge, told people she'd "rather be dead" (but had had a longterm habit of that), then quite suddenly got confused about money (or we quite suddenly became aware of that confusion). Was physically ill with malnutrition and dehydration (as a result of not eating or drinking enough for rather a long time) and had a UTI for which she was treated in hospital in Oct. 2005. While she was in there she started making strange remarks about the other patients and nurses (e.g. referring to a patient as "that fat woman" very loudly when it was obvious that the patient was swollen up with oedema, she'd NEVER have said anything like that before, would have been horrified at anyone else doing it). To start with I hoped that that was a result of the UTI, but when she was physically better enough to come home it was obvious to us that her mind had not fully recovered.

It took about 6 weeks after she came home for her to remember where she was (every morning starting with "where am I?").

Doctors who saw her in December and January said there was nothing wrong with her.

Unusually she herself complained of memory loss.

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Registered User
Aug 20, 2006
My experience was very much like this too. Probably the first thing we noticed was his increasing tendancy to replace words with "whassname". We didn't tend to take much notice of that. Then he began to forget little things - nothing important. The next stage was he would become confused at night if he'd been asleep in the evening - he;d wake up and be "not with it". For example, he'd say things like "we have to wait for the supplies on the ship" or "I hope Mum and Dad won't be too long shopping". But again, we shrugged this off as a combination of old age and waking up a bit fuddled having been asleep with the TV on.

The he began to become very confused as to what time it was, and reversing morining and evening, and becoming more short-tempered and impatient, espescially if we tried to correct his misconceptions "Don't tell me that, I know I went out today" or "I know what time it is, don't try to tell me otherwise!" and even "it's NOT the evening, you are running on American time". We also had incidents of "those people in the house" and calling Mum his sister and asking me where his grandson was (he has no grandchildren), or where was his aunt who had been in the room.

It was around that time that we managed to get him to the GP and AD was diagnosed a while later by a psychiatrist.

We actually had an improvement last year, thanks to Aricept, although he's becoming increasingly confused recently.

We've also had a lot of paranoid delusions (evil neighbour damaging house, poisoning cat, listening devices on walls).

If you suspect dementia then get a professional diagnosis, it is the only way, there are other causes of "dementia" sysmptoms and these need to be eliminated. Even if your fears are confirmed, then it's better to know as you need to organise the support you need.


Registered User
Jun 3, 2005
Hi Keyboarder

My Mum is still in the early stages of Alzheimer's (diagnosed last year, but showing symptoms similar to those you describe for the last 3 - 4 years). That doesn't necessarily mean your mum has dementia, but she may have. As others have said, the only way to find out is for her doctor to carry out blood tests to eliminate other possible causes - anaemia, diabetes, poor thyroid function etc. - and refer her for a memory test.
Whilst you can write to your Mum's doctor expressing your concerns (as I did), it is up to her & your Dad if they want to go down that route. You can of course try to encourage them in that direction, which MAY meet with co-operation - or not!

I am very grateful that my Mum DID co-operate, and so did our doctor. My Mum has been prescribed Aricept to help stabilise her memory. I know it won't work for ever, but at the moment it does. Mum knows the diagnosis and, sadly, its implications for the future (her own background was in psychiatric nursing). She tries to approach difficulties & suggestions with a positive attitude and attends a daycare group 1 day a week, which helps me. She doesn't remember anything about it within an hour of going home again, but doesn't dislike going.
From this forum, I understand that such co-operation becomes more difficult to get as the condition gets worse (through anxiety and insecurity, I think) so get in there whilst things are 'Not So Bad' and make the most of what time you all have left together before the illness limits what she can/can't & will/won't do.

Best wishes


Registered User
Aug 9, 2005
Clive said:
Also have you got the Enduring Power of Attorney set up. You will need it in years to come to look after your mums affairs.
This is VERY important. Please look into doing this now. Whether or not your Mum has dementia, it will be important to have POA in place for both your parents as they get older. If your Mum does have dementia, she will not be allowed to give you POA when she is deemed to not fully understand what she is doing (and no-one knows when / if that might be).

If your parents are reluctant to give you POA, you could do as I did. My Dad and I had POA for Mum and my Mum and I had POA for Dad. We could each act separately (this is very important). As it turned out, I was the only one to ever use the POA, but at least the way we set it up helped my M&D to feel they were still "in charge" of their own lives.

Best of luck: Nell

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