Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to aging individuals who exhibit cognitive deficits that are not severe enough to be considered dementia, but negatively affect cognition (Huckans et al., 2013; Petersen, 2004). It is a slight but noticeable decline in memory and thinking skills.
Q: Isn’t this just typical aging?
A: No. The typical aging process does not always result in memory impairment or decreased cognitive function.
Some gradual mental (cognitive) decline is seen with normal aging. For example, the ability to learn new information may be reduced, mental processing slows, speed of performance slows, and ability to become distracted increases. However, these declines due to normal aging do not affect overall functioning or ability to perform activities of daily living. Normal aging does not affect recognition, intelligence, or long-term memory.
In normal aging, a person may occasionally forget names and words and misplace things. With mild cognitive impairment, the person frequently forgets conversations and information that one would ordinarily remember such as appointments and other planned events (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17990-mild-cognitive-impairment).
Early identification of MCI might enable the use of cognitive interventions to slow the progression of decline (Qualls, 2005). SLPs can help teach techniques/strategies to compensate, provide memory training and cognitive stimulation – improving independence, safety, quality of life, and the potential to slow/delay/halt the progression of the disease.
It’s common to feel embarrassed or worried about MCI. However, reducing stimulation and socialization can make the problem worse.
Q: Does this mean the person with MCI will get dementia?
A: No, not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Here is the good news:
- 1 out of 5 people diagnosed with MCI will go back to normal cognitive functioning within 3 – 4 years of their MCI diagnosis.
- Many people with MCI remain stable for several years without progressing to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
- See Source: (https://www.seniorlivingresidences.com/family-guide/mild-cognitive-impairment-facts/mild-cognitive-impairment-faq/)
Q: What can I do to lower my risk of MCI and dementia?
A: Everyone can reduce their risk of MCI and dementia as they get older by not smoking, drinking only in moderation, eating a healthy, balanced diet and taking regular and appropriate physical exercise. (Source: Alzheimers.org)
Q: What can I do to help myself / loved one once there is a diagnosis of MCI?
A: Lifestyle / home remedies include (source: Mayo Clinic):
- Regular physical exercise has known benefits for heart health and may also help prevent or slow cognitive decline.
- A diet low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables is another heart-healthy choice that also may help protect cognitive health.
- Omega-3 fatty acids also are good for the heart. Most research showing a possible benefit for cognitive health uses fish consumption as a yardstick for the amount of omega-3 fatty acids eaten.
- Intellectual stimulation may prevent cognitive decline. Studies have shown that computer use, playing games, reading books and other intellectual activities may help preserve function and prevent cognitive decline.
- Social engagement may make life more satisfying, help preserve mental function and slow mental decline.
- Memory training and other cognitive training may help improve your function.