We often think of cognitive decline in aging as black and white: either a person develops dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or they age normally and retain their memory. However, this isn’t as clear a split as one might think. There is a middle ground between typical aging and the steep cognitive decline of dementia. It’s called mild cognitive impairment.
Mild cognitive impairment is a relatively new term, defined by the Mayo Clinic as, “an intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia.” What distinguishes mild cognitive impairment from dementia is the severity of the symptoms. Although a loss in cognitive function is apparent, the individual is typically fully functioning in most areas of their life, being able to care for themselves, maintain finances and medications, and hold down a job. Because the deficits that accompany mild cognitive impairment are relatively minor, they often go unnoticed except by the individual themselves and those closest to them.
There are many variations in mild cognitive impairment. For example, the areas of cognition affected can vary across individuals. Often, the disorder only affects memory, a variation referred to as amnestic mild cognitive impairment. In other instances, a variety of cognitive functions may be affected in addition to memory; in this variation, called multiple domain mild cognitive impairment, language, visual perception, or higher-level reasoning may be affected. There are also differences in severity across individuals. Although mild cognitive impairment is often considered a transitional stage between typical function and advanced dementia, there are cases of mild cognitive impairment that remain static or even demonstrate improvement.
The cause of mild cognitive impairment is still unknown, making prevention and treatment difficult topics to tackle. However, as with typical dementia, an individual with mild cognitive impairment can benefit from the services of a speech-language pathologist. Check in with us again next week, when we’ll discuss the ways a speech therapist can help provide cognitive therapy and language remediation to help individuals with mild cognitive impairment maintain cognitive-communicative function and improve quality of life.
If you or someone you know is having difficulty with speech, language, or swallowing, contact Speech Associates of New York today to find a professional speech-language pathologist who can help you or your loved one communicate to the fullest. Remember, early intervention is the key to maintaining and developing strong communication skills. Call us today at (212) 308-7725 or visit our website at www.speechassociatesofny.com.