Drawing a blank when trying to remember the name of a familiar colleague. Misplacing your keys in the oddest of places. Having a standing appointment slip your mind. If you’re like most older adults, you have plenty of stories of “senior moments.” While these little lapses in memory are a far cry from full-blown dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, in some cases they might be a sign of a different problem: mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
MCI can be thought of as a middle ground between typical aging and the steep decline of dementia. The symptoms of MCI are similar to those of dementia: difficulty with memory, attention, language, etc. However the difference lies in the severity. Although there is a noticeable loss of cognitive function, a person with MCI typically has no problems fully functioning in most areas of their life, being able to care for themselves 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. However MCI is relatively common: The estimated incidence of MCI in people over the age of 65 is about 10–20%, with the likelihood increasing with age. About 40% of people diagnosed with MCI eventually go on to develop dementia.
A speech-language pathologist can help pinpoint the areas of language and communication most affected by mild cognitive impairment, and specifically target these in therapy through exercises for awareness and skill development. A speech therapist can also provide cognitive therapy, helping people devise strategies that support their memory in day-to-day life. This can include external supports, like the use of a daily planner or journal, or internal supports like the development of visualization, association or elaboration as methods of helping to retain information.
Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment? Share your story in the comments section below!
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Sources: http://leader.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2541739; http://www.speechpathology.com/articles/treatment-mci-what-slp-needs-2138