What is cognitive impairment?
Cognitive impairment in the elderly is the process of decline in performance of intellectual or cognitive functions. It is defined as difficulty in processing thoughts that lead to memory loss, difficulties in making decisions, difficulties in concentrating and in learning.
Cognitive impairment is a condition that manifests itself to varying degrees. The most common of these is mild cognitive impairment, which affects older people quite regularly.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI), also called early dementia or isolated cognitive impairment, is a condition that primarily affects memory. We are talking about a mild disorder, which would fall somewhere in between an age-related brain aging and a dementia process.
Annually, 1 in 10 patients affected by mild cognitive impairment progress to dementia (the most common form of which is Alzheimer’s disease). However, the majority of patients present, in a chronic way, a discrete cognitive alteration that does not interfere with their daily life.
Some examples of memory loss from mild cognitive impairment
- Frequent loss of objects
- Forgetfulness in calendars, planning.
- Slight difficulties in the use of language.
In these situations, it is important to follow up with doctors and family, to anticipate possible cases of dementia, or Alzheimer’s. Cognitive stimulation platforms, such as Kwido Mementia, are also potential prevention tools. Thanks to the analysis of the user’s activity with the app, reports are generated that help to identify a possible pathology.
It is important that family and friends can be informed about the most common symptoms of this mild disorder, so that they can identify them in time.
It should be remembered that cognitive impairment due to biological or psychological causes has no cure iself, although it is possible to attenuate the impact of the disorder and exercise the affected functions with cognitive stimulation processes.
On the other hand, we can find phases of specific cognitive impairment (which can be reversed) in cases of indiscriminate abuse of certain drugs, so vigilance in this case would be essential.
Some common symptoms we can list are:
More frequent forgetfulness, both of trivial things and important commitments. For example: where you left your glasses, or your doctor’s appointments.
Repetition of questions. For example: Where are we going?
Disorientation in familiar places. For example: finding yourself lost when you go down to do your shopping.
Communication and expression difficulties. For example: hesitant communication in the explanation of a regular daily routine.
Abandonment of daily tasks. For example: shopping, cooking, cleaning…
Disinterest in routines and hobbies. For example: giving up reading, or social encounters.
Which cognitive functions can be stimulated?
Cognitive functions are the mental processes by which humans perceive and understand information about our surroundings. It involves a range of cognitive skills such as perception, thinking, reasoning,
The most important cognitive functions are the following:
ORIENTATION. It is the capacity we have to be aware of our own person, (personal orientation), to situate ourselves in time (temporal orientation) and to locate and/or recognize the space around us (spatial orientation).
GNOSIAS. It is the ability of our brain to recognize and correctly perceive the stimuli of the environment around us through our senses.
PRAXIES. These are the skills we acquire to achieve specific goals. They are the organized movements we make with our body in our daily life, such as talking or smiling or using a specific object.
ATTENTION. Processes aimed at selecting and focusing on those stimuli that we consider relevant at each moment.
MEMORY. It is the ability to effectively encode, store and retrieve learned information. We have different types of memory; sensory memory, short term memory and long term memory.
LANGUAGE. It is the ability to relate a system of codes to the meanings of objects or ideas. It is intimately linked to memory and serves to transmit our thoughts, ideas and emotions and thus maintain communication in our society. Within the language, several basic functions are involved: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONS. Set of skills and cognitive processes that we develop in order to adapt to our environment and perform specific actions. Among them, the most important could be: reasoning, planning and goal setting, decision making or time estimation, among others.
Prevention of cognitive impairment
The primary goal of preventing cognitive impairment is the early diagnosis and treatment of those with Mild Cognitive Impairment.
There are several guidelines to follow in preventing cognitive decline in older adults. Among them, all those that promote an active and healthy lifestyle.
- Tener una alimentación sana y equilibrada
- No abandonar la actividad social
- Realizar ejercicio físico asiduamente
- Conservar aficiones e investigar otras nuevas
- Controlar las enfermedades con riesgos cardiovasculares
- Potenciar el entrenamiento cerebral y los juegos mentales
- Have a healthy and balanced diet
- Do not abandon social activity
- Exercise regularly
- Preserving hobbies and researching new ones
- Managing diseases with cardiovascular risks
- Enhancing brain training and mind games