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Mon, Apr 8 11:07am · What’s the Difference Between Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Dementia? in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

@dorisena – thank you for your comments and willingness to share your experiences with others in the group.

Mon, Apr 8 11:05am · What’s the Difference Between Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Dementia? in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Great resources, @colleenyoung – I would add that in general, if you feel your safety is compromised, physically leave the situation immediately and call 911.

Mon, Apr 8 11:01am · What’s the Difference Between Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Dementia? in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

@parus It can be tough to ask questions at an appointment, especially with a computer seeming to take up the provider's attention, but it's so important to be an advocate for yourself and speak up! It may be helpful to write down your questions in advance and mention early in the appointment that you brought a list of questions. If you are noticing cognitive changes that concern you, let your provider know, and ask if a neuropsychological evaluation (or updated evaluation, if you have not had one in a year) would be indicated.

Mon, Apr 8 9:21am · What’s the Difference Between Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Dementia? in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

@lbrockmeier @debbraw beat me to it – she gives a lot of good suggestions, including finding a neurologist who you feel confident in. Geriatric Medicine providers can be a wonderful resource, as well.

Wed, Apr 3 3:22pm · What’s the Difference Between Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Dementia? in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

@debbraw – Good questions! The "milestones" of progression from MCI to dementia can be subtle from day to day, so you are spot on in your analogy of this being like the aging process. For healthcare providers, who see the patient every 6 months or every year, changes appear a bit more pronounced. What many of us tend to hone in on is how the person is functioning in daily life. Usually, when MCI progresses, we hear about a patient having had some mishaps with medication management, bill paying, cooking, or driving tasks, to the point that family members have stepped in and taken over some or all of those things. Essentially, that loss of function is a symptom of cognitive difficulties getting worse, with progression of the underlying disease. You are also right that dementia has stages (mild, moderate, severe). I'd suggest taking a look at the Alzheimer's Association website resources for more info on that (https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/stages).

Tue, Apr 2 8:00am · What’s the Difference Between Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Dementia? in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)


As a neuropsychologist, I often see patients who are concerned about the possibility that they have Alzheimer’s disease. When we discuss their test results and diagnosis, I often get questions such as “what’s the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?” Or “what’s the difference between mild cognitive impairment and dementia?”

Both mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia are umbrella terms, meaning that they are broad or general ways of defining a condition that can have many different, specific causes.

How are they similar?

Both MCI and dementia involve having cognitive skills that are not normal for age. For many people, this is memory impairment. But, other people have difficulty with language functioning, thinking speed, visuospatial skills, problem-solving, or attention. Both MCI and dementia are diagnosed through a series of medical and cognitive evaluations, typically including: bloodwork, brain imaging (such as CT or MRI), neuropsychological evaluation, and a careful history-taking to rule out other causes of thinking difficulty by a physician, psychologist, or both.

Both MCI and dementia can be caused by the following:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cerebrovascular disease (including stroke)
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Lewy Body disease
  • Frontotemporal degeneration

How are they different?

The main difference between MCI and dementia comes down to how folks are functioning in day-to-day tasks. People with MCI are still pretty independent with their daily functioning. They usually are still driving, cooking, paying bills, and taking care of the house. Some are even still working. They may use systems, strategies, or other aides (like a pill organizer) to keep themselves independent.

People with dementia, on the other hand, have cognitive difficulties that have progressed to the point that they interfere with the person being able to be independent in her daily life. Therefore, they may have family members or healthcare assistance who administer their medications to them, do the cooking, and/or provide transportation. A person with dementia typically would not be able to hold down a job.

In addition, people with MCI may have only one area of thinking difficulty (often memory), with normal thinking abilities in other domains. People with dementia usually have global cognitive impairment or problems in multiple cognitive domains.

Chime in – how could healthcare professionals do a better job of explaining the difference between MCI and dementia when providing the initial diagnosis?

Wed, Feb 6 8:31am · Dr. Chandler Presents at the MCI Symposium in Miami in Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

MCI Symposium

On January 19th, Dr. Chandler presented to a group of neurologists, pathologists, neuropsychologists, and others from all over the country in a conference geared towards advancing the science in MCI.  She spoke as part of an afternoon session on rehabilitation strategies in MCI. She provided a broad overview of the Healthy Action to Benefit Independence and Thinking Program at Mayo Clinic. Our program includes multiple components including a compensatory cognitive rehabilitation component centered around teaching our patients how to write things down in a structured, organized, and detailed way into a memory notebook that is portable. For more information from a patient’s perspective on this rehabilitation approach, I would encourage you to take a look at a prior post from one of our HABIT alumni in which she describes how she uses her HABIT calendar on a daily basis.

Other presenters at the Symposium discussed how using mnemonics may help in early MCI.  For example, if you have trouble learning new names, try to associate something with that person’s name.  Perhaps they remind you of someone else you knew named Bob; try to picture them together.  Or, imagine Rosemary smelling like the herb.  Things like that.  Those sorts of mental tricks can be quite helpful, and even make some changes in parts of the brain related to concentration and focus!

If you want to learn more about these other researchers working in MCI rehabilitation, do an internet search for the works of Benjamin Hampstead, PhD; Krish Sathian, MD; Sylvie Belleville, PhD, and Michael Marsiske, PhD (from left to right; all pictured with Dr. Chandler, second from left, above).

Thanks for helping spread the word about HABIT and treating MCI, Dr. Chandler!