Normal Aging or Mild Cognitive Impairment?

This image is no longer available

Getty Images

Everyone misplaces their keys or forgets a name once in a while, and these sorts of occurrences – as long as they are uncommon – do not suggest that you need to be worried.

In fact, the authors of Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment, say it can be tricky to differentiate between normal aging and MCI, and it requires a full evaluation to figure out what’s what.

“The signs and symptoms that we describe, everybody will say, ‘hold on a minute, I do that sometimes,’ and we don’t want everybody to panic, because it’s normal to have these slips from time to time,” says Baycrest neuropsychologist Dr. Nicole Anderson.

“The signs — the common ones — are repeatedly asking the same questions; getting stuck for the names of people that you know well; getting lost or disoriented in a place that you are familiar with; and just having to spend a lot more time getting things done because you’re having memory slips or you forgot where you put things.”

Besides memory, other cognitive functions may be affected, such as language or problem-solving skills.

Other possible causes of deterioration need to be ruled out. Symptoms could be brought on by stress, anxiety, head trauma, thyroid disease, vitamin deficiency, heavy alcohol consumption and some prescription and over-the-counter medicines that cause fatigue or affect memory. With proper treatment, several of these problems can be rectified.

The book advises readers to inform their doctor if any of the following are true:
— Others mention problems with your memory that you were not aware of.
— You spend an excessive amount of time checking or organizing in order to cope with your memory changes.
— You give up activities you used to enjoy because they are more difficult or awkward.

Normal changes
— Forgetting the name of your new neighbour.
–Having difficulty remembering how to get to your new doctor’s office.
–Telling your friend the same joke you told her last week.

Changes that could point to MCI
— Forgetting for more than a moment the name of a close friend that you’ve known a long time.
— Getting lost in a familiar place.
— Repeating the same joke or anecdote during the same conversation.

Dr. Anderson recommends that patients document the incidents that concern them, in order to give the doctor a better perspective on whether they are due to normal aging, MCI or other medical issues.


Courtesy of Baycrest, the global leader in innovations, research and breakthroughs for the journey of aging.