Many that are not familiar with the term, may not know exactly what mild cognitive impairment is. The level of concern and attention needed once diagnosed is also a common misconception. It’s important to know that mild cognitive decline is not just age associated memory loss, and is something that should be monitored closely once noticed in a loved one.
Although it is not the same as having Alzheimer’s or dementia, it puts a senior at an increased risk for developing the two more serious conditions later on. Mild cognitive impairment is defined as a problem with cognition or unusual brain processes despite a person’s age and education level.
Symptoms of Mild Cognitive Impairment
The symptoms of mild cognitive impairment vary. Each individual will be affected in their own way, but this condition and its symptoms are categorized in two classifications:
- Amnestic MCI: This is the type that mainly affects memory. Details that were once easy to remember such as appointments, recent happenings, and names appear to slip from their recall.
- Nonamnestic MCI: This is the type that affects decision making and judgement. Tasks that were once routine become more difficult to carry out, and visual perception is also hindered.
Difference Between Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia
While dementia and mild cognitive impairment both interfere with memory and cognitive function, one is not like the other. MCI is often what leads to a later diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia, but only in severe cases..
With mild cognitive impairment, daily activities are not severely impacted, only normal cognitive function. Unlike dementia, which has no cure, mild cognitive impairment can sometimes be stabilized, or even eliminated.
A few ways to determine if a memory loss problem is associated with a more serious condition, several tests can be conducted to scout for biomarkers such as the levels of a protein. Noticeable changes in behaviour that result in extreme disorientation and personality change would be a more advanced sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Risks and Causes of Mild Cognitive Impairment
The risks of mild cognitive impairment are comparable to those of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Genetics, aging, and cardiovascular conditions that hinder oxygen flow to the brain are similar factors of both.
Smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, depression, lack of physical exercise, and diabetes are other contributors to an increased risk.
The direct cause of MCI is uncertain, but many experts point it to brain changes that are seen in early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Again, this is only in some cases, not all. In the advanced cases that lead to a later diagnosis, the following conditions have been present:
- Clumps of plaques (beta-amyloid protein) and tau protein, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Present Lewy bodies, microscopic clumps of a different protein associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Reduced blood flow through brain blood vessels.
Treatment Options for Mild Cognitive Impairment
There is currently no treatment for mild cognitive impairment associated with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia, or anything to slow the risk of advancing to serious memory loss.
However, mild cognitive impairment has been known to spawn from these causes, resulting in a reversible case:
- Medication side effects (anticholinergic drugs used to treat bladder conditions, Parkinson’s disease and depression have been known contributors)
- Depression and stress
- Sleeping disorders
- Low B12 levels
- Hearing loss or vision problems
- Underlying conditions affecting blood flow to the brain
Kensington Park Memory Care
When we see our loved one’s behavior change, it can be startling, upsetting, and even frustrating. Irritability and anxiety in a senior puts a lot of pressure on a primary caregiver or family member. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when the situation gets tough.
In any amount of suspicion, it is important for family and friends to recognize non-normal behavior in a loved one when you see it, so that they can be seen by a physician for a proper diagnosis.
If you have a loved one affected by Alzheimer’s, dementia, mild cognitive impairment, or other memory loss associated condition, you’re not alone. At Kensington Park, we aim to provide families peace of mind and assistance in the care for a senior loved one.
With our two memory care neighborhoods catered to varying levels of memory loss, our care is catered to match their individual needs. We promise to love and care for your family as we do our own, so you can instead focus on quality time together.
Call us today if you would like to learn more about our memory care.