Mild Cognitive Impairment
A decline in cognition is a natural part of the normal ageing process. This is characterised by a failing memory and is an accepted part of getting older.
As a consequence, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between the memory loss associated with normal ageing and the very early stages of dementia. It is now accepted that there is an intermediate stage, known as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) that falls along the continuum between normal ageing and dementia.
Many people with MCI develop increasing difficulty with memory but this has relatively little impact on their way of life. Often the symptoms of MCI are assumed to be those expected during the normal ageing process.
The normal memory changes associated with ageing are characterised by momentary lapses in memory such as misplacing objects, difficulty remembering names and forgetting appointments. In MCI, the memory loss is greater and problems with the thinking process more pronounced. MCI sufferers can find it more difficult to remember details after a relatively short period of time, and may forget important events, e.g. family birthdays.
This kind of information tends to be retained during normal ageing. In contrast, the abnormal memory loss in dementia is accompanied by other problems such as disorientation, inability to recall very recent events and confusion.
The importance of identifying MCI is becoming increasingly accepted. It provides the opportunity for monitoring of memory function and early treatment should the individual subsequently develop dementia. Expert assessment of individuals complaining of memory decline will usually be performed in a memory clinic.
Glasgow Memory Clinic offers a free memory screening service for those over 60 who are concerned about memory decline and who are potentially interested in participating in our research program. Contact us for more information.