There is a commonly held misconception that aging results in an inevitable loss of cognitive ability and that nothing can be done to halt this decline. However, research does not support this claim. While certain areas of thinking do show normal decline as we age, other areas remain stable.
Certain interventions may actually slow some of the changes that occur. The areas that may be affected are: memory, language, reasoning, problem-solving, and executive function, as well as speed of processing.
The symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are frequently losing or misplacing things; frequently forgetting conversations, appointments, or events; difficulty remembering names of new acquaintances; and difficulty following the flow of conversation.
Family and close friends are usually aware if you have MCI or have experienced a decline in memory. But, unlike people with full-blown dementia, you’re still able to function in your daily life without relying on others. The course is difficult to predict as to who will get dementia, but in general, the greater the degree of memory impairment, the greater the risk of developing dementia in the future.
The following is a screening test for your loved one. Each question scores one point for a “yes” answer. If the total score is 0-4, all is fine. If the score is 5-14, your loved one may have MCI and should see their physician. If the score is 15 or greater, they may have dementia. Note: Answering “yes” to these questions is not intended to replace a complete physician evaluation.
1. Has the one you love experienced memory loss?
2. If yes, is their memory worse now than a few years ago?
3. Does your loved one repeat questions, statements, or stories in the same day?
4. Have you had to take over tracking their events or appointments?
5. Do they misplace items more than once a month?
6. Do they suspect someone is hiding or stealing items that can’t be found?
7. Do they have difficulty orientating to the day, month, or year?
8. Do they become disoriented in unfamiliar places?
9. Are they more confused outside the home or while traveling?
10. Do they handle money well – for example, can they pay their bills on time?
11. Do they forget to take their medication?
12. Do they have difficulty driving?
13. Do they have problems using appliances and/or doing housekeeping?
14. Have they cut back on hobbies?
15. Do they get lost in their own neighborhood?
16. Do they have difficulty coming up with the right word?
17. Is there a decline in their sense of direction?
18. Do they confuse people’s names?
19. Do they have difficulty recognizing people?
At Casa Colina, we’re proud to offer the innovative Senior Evaluation Program to serve our senior population. To learn more, please call (909) 596-7733, ext. 3800.
Harvey D. Cohen, M.D., is Board-Certified Internal and Geriatric Medicine, Program Medical Director of the Casa Colina Senior Evaluation Program