A loved one may ask the same question again and again. She may be have trouble following directions that involve multiple steps or performing tasks with numbers, such as paying her bills. When you talk to her, she may not be fully focused. Your loved one may be showing the signs of mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. With mild cognitive impairment, patients have changes in cognitive abilities, such as orientation, memory and concentration, as well as changes in functional abilities. Virginia Tech's pamphlet on mild cognitive impairment pointed out that the memory issues that occur with mild cognitive impairment are not a sign of normal aging.
Mayo Clinic's website noted that patients who develop mild cognitive impairment have a greater risk later developing dementia. However, not every patient with mild cognitive impairment has a type of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, later. Symptoms of mild cognitive impairment include memory loss, feeling overwhelmed when making decisions, and showing poor judgment. Mild cognitive impairment patients may also have depression, anxiety or irritability. In general, patients do not have issues living on their own or maintaining conversations, according to Virginia Tech.
To diagnose mild cognitive impairment, the physician will perform several examinations, such as checking the patient's neurological and physical functioning. Lab work may be done, such as checking thyroid functioning and vitamin B-12 levels, to rule out other causes of memory dysfunction. The Alzheimer's Association stated that the United States Food and Drug Administration has not approved a treatment specifically for mild cognitive impairment. Some patients may start taking medications for Alzheimer's disease, such as cholinesterase inhibitors, though MayoClinic.com noted that these medications do not seem to have a lasting effect in improving mild cognitive impairment symptoms.
If you have a loved one with mild cognitive impairment, Virginia Tech's pamphlet provided several tips to help patients. For example, encourage the patient by giving her one task at a time, have her care for a plant or pet, or have her perform a household chore. According to the information, these will help the patient to feel responsible. Be patient: allow the patient to do her daily activities at her own speed and avoid interrupting. The pamphlet also suggested that families and friends of the patient not start or end their sentences with “I already told you so”; instead, answer the patient's question each time as if it is the first time she has asked that question.
Virginia Tech: Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): What Do We Do Now?
NYU Medical Center/NYU School of Medicine: Mild Cognitive Impairment
Alzheimer's Association: Mild Cognitive Impairment
MayoClinic.com: Mild Cognitive Impairment