Whether you are caring for an aging spouse, parent or friend, or if you are wondering about whether you, yourself, are starting to lose a step when it comes to memory, the most difficult thing to grapple with is how to know what behavior is a part of normal aging and what could signal cognitive decline that warrants evaluation.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more-serious decline of dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.
If you have MCI, you may be aware that your memory or mental function has “slipped.” Your family and close friends also may notice a change. But generally these changes aren’t severe enough to significantly interfere with your day-to-day life and usual activities.
Mild cognitive impairment may increase your risk of later progressing to dementia, caused by Alzheimer’s disease or other neurological conditions. But some people with mild cognitive impairment never get worse, and a few eventually get better.
What to watch for
Your brain, like the rest of your body, changes as you grow older. Many people notice gradually increasing forgetfulness as they age. It may take longer to think of a word or to recall a person’s name. But consistent or increasing concern about your mental performance may suggest mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Cognitive issues may go beyond what’s expected and indicate possible MCI if you experience any or all of the following:
If you or a loved one is experiencing the kind of cognitive changes described above, a visit to your primary care provider is in order. He or she can evaluate your condition and help determine your best course of action. When patients are diagnosed with early onset of MCI, treatment can be started with medications that can help slow the progression of impairment and keep seniors independent as long as possible.
Source: Mayo Clinic, “Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)