Caregivers of Persons with Mild Cognitive Impairment: Information and Support Needs
Wilcox, Karen L.
Roberto, Karen A.
Winston, Brianne L.
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One of the newer concepts of age-related memory deficit is mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI reflects self-reported changes in cognitive function that do not necessarily interfere with work or social relations; it is viewed as a transitional phase between normal cognitive aging and dementia. Researchers and practitioners lack a comprehensive understanding of what relatives of persons with MCI are actually experiencing and what they realistically believe would be helpful to manage their situation now and in the future. In a multi-method, mini-longitudinal design that incorporated quantitative and qualitative approaches, we collected information from patient charts and semi-structured family interviews to investigate the information and support needs of 20 (out of 100 to be interviewed) family members of older adults with MCI. We found that, apart from information available about potential later diagnoses such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, families reported having little information available to them to assist in decision making and caregiving for early stages of memory loss. Family members were hesitant to think about and plan very far into the future and were more likely to take things a day at a time. Past experiences with family members or friends with memory difficulties or other serious health conditions enabled some family members to feel more at ease and knowledgeable with the process of seeking help for themselves and the older adult they were supporting. Findings suggest that earlier identification of memory loss has implications for clinical practice and the delivery of health care and social services to older individuals and their relatives.