In our increasingly aging population, dementia is one of the conditions that frequently occur. Dementia refers to memory, thinking, and language decline that is significant enough to interfere with normal functioning. Actually, Dementia is a group of disorders, one of which is Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease is what most people think of when they hear dementia, and it is also the most common form of dementia. However, dementia is also caused by many other conditions including vascular disease in the brain (cerebrovascular), and is associated with other conditions such as Parkinson's.
Dementia is a slow and gradually progressive condition. It frequently first comes to the attention of the individual's spouse, family member, or at times a co-worker when individuals manifest difficulty with short-term memory, thinking, and language. There are different forms of dementia. For example, one may develop behavioral changes with irritability and impulsivity (Lewy Body Disease) or more prominently difficulty with words (Primary Progressive Aphasia).
Neuroimaging studies such as Brain MRI can assist in detecting structural changes. However, there is not a direct correlation between brain changes on scans and an individual's cognitive capacity. More recently, blood studies (i.e. Amyloid) have provided further diagnostic information, but they do not actually measure the level of cognitive impairment or the specific cognitive domain that is impaired.
Neuropsychological Evaluation provides a comprehensive and accurate assessment of the individual's actual cognitive capacity. This requires detailed testing along with analysis of test results utilizing specific demographic factors of the individual including their age and level of education. When dementia is diagnosed, recommendations are made regarding whether the individual should consider having major life decisions (i.e. financial, medical) made by others. Test results also can determine if the individual is cognitively capable of preparing or changing their will.
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
It is important to understand that developing difficult with memory and thinking does not necessarily indicate that an individual has Alzheimer's disease. First, decreased efficiency remembering and thinking is a normal part of
aging. Second, many individuals have a less severe condition known as Mild Cognitive Impairment or MCI. Individuals with MCI are often able to continue with their lives, enjoying their usual activities of driving, pursuing hobbies, and even working. They need to become aware of their specific cognitive weakness(es) and develop cognitive strategies to compensate for their difficulties.
Neuropsychological Evaluation performed by Dr. Kutner determines if the individual has this less severe form of memory difficulty and equally important, leads to individualized specific cognitive compensatory strategies. For individuals with MCI, it is frequently comforting to know that they do not have a dementia like Alzheimer's, and they can continue with most if not all of their usual activities. Specifically, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is not dementia.
Individuals with MCI do have an increased risk of developing dementia. However, having MCI does not mean that an individual will develop Alzheimer's disease. Research indicates that only 10-15% of individuals who are diagnosed with MCI develop dementia each year.