Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild Cognitive Impairment or (MCI) – do you know what it is or understand its significance?
I have to be honest and say that until last year, I knew nothing about it. Like many I was aware of the growing media noise around dementia, the social and economic costs involved. Like many, I assumed that dementia was something that affected old people in much later life and put a fair bit of distance between me and the possibility of getting it. What I know now has blown those assumptions out of the water.
Everyone and I mean everyone, no matter what age, needs to understand the real impact of MCI and why identifying it early is probably the most important thing you can do to control the quality of the rest of your life.
MCI is not a specific disease rather it describes a set of symptoms. Someone with MCI has subtle problems with one or more of the following:
- day-to-day memory
- visuospatial skills (‘visuo’ referring to eyesight and ‘spatial’ referring to space or location), which give a person the ability to interpret objects and shapes.
Some people will have MCI as a result of a curable condition such as stress, anxiety or depression, or from physical illness or side-effects of medication.
However, 70% of people with MCI ‘convert” to Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. The rates of ‘conversion’ range from 1-2% per year for the general population to 7-15% for those aged 65 or older.
WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT?
We know that neuro- degenerative diseases progress slowly over years, prior to any obvious sign or symptom. This means that for many, they start taking hold when we are in mid-life, but we just don’t know about it.
Like any disease, we can review what our risks are for developing MCI and try to modify our behaviour to hopefully reduce those risks, but unless we test for the condition we are totally in the dark.
If we could test people for MCI then we would be able to identify it earlier, providing peace of mind to those who may have MCI which is not dementia related and give those where it is, the very best opportunity to take control and manage the situation.
The sooner we know, the better:
- Early diagnosis will allow treatable conditions to be ruled out that may have symptoms similar to dementia. The sooner we are assessed, the sooner we can receive the right help – getting a diagnosis can be a lengthy process.
- It provides the opportunity of accessing new treatment approaches that may alter the underlying disease process and have the potential to slow or halt its progression.
- By taking an assessment, we will have a benchmark to compare future results as we monitor the condition.
- If diagnosed, we still have the cognitive ability to plan our lives and our future more effectively.
- We can work through those plans with our employer, family and those close to us. They are going to be significantly affected by what is happening but once they know, can reach make informed decisions of their own.
- We will be able to access advice, information and support (emotional, practical and financial) from social services, voluntary agencies and support groups.
I really believe that the quality of life is all about our ability to function which is totally governed by the state of our cognitive health. I can’t think of a better, simpler, more cost effective way of monitoring this than the cognitive assessments from Cambridge Cognition.