New Study Finds Millions of People Go Undiagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment
- “Die Hard” actor Bruce Willis, 68, lives with frontotemporal dementia, which impacts his ability to communicate, among other cognitive symptoms. He’s since relied on his family, especially his wife, who has cared for him since his diagnosis last year.
- New studies draw attention to people facing cognitive challenges such as forgetfulness, struggles with memory, or difficulty communicating, which could be signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The condition is slightly less severe than Alzheimer’s disease.
- Research published in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy and the Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease found that many physicians underdiagnose adults 65 and over with mild cognitive impairment despite existing symptoms.
- People with a cognitive condition may often find themselves leaning on a caregiver in some capacity in their daily lives. A caregiver can be a partner, another relative, a friend, or a neighbor. These selfless individuals must be willing to listen to the patient and allow them to express their feelings and concerns.
- Caregivers must also be watchful for “caregiver burnout,” which occurs by dismissing their own needs in favor of the patient.
“Die Hard” actor Bruce Willis, 68, is living with frontotemporal dementia, which impacts his ability to communicate, among other symptoms. An early sign of the condition involves mild cognitive impairment, which often goes undiagnosed, according to a new study published in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), mild cognitive impairment (MCI) causes memory or cognitive problems slightly less severe than Alzheimer’s for adults.
An additional study published in late October in the Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease says, “MCI is vastly underdiagnosed, pointing to an urgent need to improve early detection in primary care.”Read More
Since Willis’ diagnosis, his wife has assumed a caregiver role for her husband. The diagnosis has taken an emotional toll on his family.
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Many People Go Undiagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment, What Can Be Done to Reverse Course
Research published in Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy examined 40 million Americans 65 and over and compared the number diagnosed with MCI with the number expected for this age group.
“Although detection rates for MCI cases increased from 2015 to 2019 (0.062 to 0.079), the results mean that 7.4 of 8 million (92%) expected MCI cases remained undiagnosed,” researchers said in their analysis.
Researchers found that “fewer than 8 percent” of seniors in the cohort received a diagnosis, meaning of the 8 million predicted to experience MCI symptoms, 7 million went undiagnosed.
Researchers in a different study on MCI published their findings in the Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. They concluded that only “0.1 percent of clinicians and practices had diagnosis rates [for MCI] within the expected range” for people over 65.
In a statement to USC Dornsife, researchers who conducted the study urged people and healthcare professionals to “pay attention to early changes in cognition” because the subtle signs of forgetfulness or recurrent cognitive challenge could worsen to Alzheimer’s or some other related condition.
Helping You Understand the Value of Caregivers
Caring for a Loved One with a Cognitive Condition
For people impacted by mild cognitive impairment or some other related condition, the first ones to recognize the subtle changes are family and close friends. If the condition worsens, requiring more intensive care, these same loved ones often find themselves caring for the patient diagnosed.
A caregiver can be a partner, parent, child, friend, or neighbor. However, it should be someone who is willing to put in the time and effort to understand the diagnosis and follow the medical team’s recommendations.
“Caregiving is the most important job in the universe because you are there through the highs and lows,” Julie Bulger, manager of patient and family-centered care at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet.
“There’s so much evidence that outcomes are better when somebody has an incredible caregiver by their side.”
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Being a caregiver can be a tall task and is not without its struggles. To avoid caregiver burnout, which may include feeling stressed, angry, fatigued, and illness Bulger stress, caregivers must not forget self-care.