The Early Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment: Behavior Changes

The early stages of Alzheimer’s are marked with significant behavioral changes. Friends and family will likely notice behavioral changes long before the patient does. Behavioral changes are often gradual and subtle, and they increase as the disease progresses. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is almost a pre-Alzheimer’s disease, but not all patients with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s disease. There are some marked differences between the two conditions. iStock_000021577716XXXLarge

Those with MCI may exhibit the following behaviors:

  1.  Repeating questions or statements. If you notice your family member or loved one asking the same questions (sometimes several times in a row), or they tell the same stories over and over again, they may have MCI. They will usually have no idea who they told the information to or if they said anything about that particular subject at all.
  2. Ability to learn is decreased. Learning new things becomes very difficult for someone with MCI. It is especially prevalent when someone is trying to learn new technology or a complex task. Their concentration is often very strained as well.
  1. Complex tasks become very difficult. Even if they have done the task before, those with MCI have a lot of trouble completing very complex tasks. Event planning is the classic example of an irregular, but fairly common complex task that would stump someone with MCI.

Although MCI often leads to Alzheimer’s disease, there are some changes in behavior that signify the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

  1.  Complex daily tasks become difficult, if not impossible. Those with MCI have trouble with irregular complex tasks, but those with early Alzheimer’s disease have trouble with regular complex tasks. For example, paying bills or handling money will become very difficult. The ability to make and serve meals may also be strained.
  2. Withdrawal is fairly common. A complete lack of emotional response may begin to be evident. Those with early Alzheimer’s disease may not want to visit friends and family or participate in community events.
  1. Balance and gait are slowed. Even in the very early stages, Alzheimer’s disease patients tend to move more slowly. They get up slower and they walk slower. Even their stride may be smaller.

Although these behavioral changes may not be evident in every case, they are some of the most common. If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from MCI or Alzheimer’s disease, call to schedule a free memory screening at 561-282-5546.

If you would be interested in a free memory screening, please contact us today.


Kilik, LA, et al. (2008). Progression of Behavior in Dementia: In-Office Guide for Clinicians. Am. J. of Alzheimer’s Disease. 23(3): 242-249. doi. 10.1177/1533317507313676.

Mega, MS, et al. (1996). The spectrum of behavioral changes in Alzheimer’s disease. Neurology. 46(1): 130-135. doi.10.1212/WNL.46.1.130.

Gras, LZ, et al. (2015). Balance and Gait of Adults With Very Mild Alzheimer Disease. Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy. 38(1): 1-7. doi. 10.1519/JPT.0000000000000020.


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