Frustrations and Hope

Here are a few of my thoughts and experiences on the effects of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

An obvious effect of MCI is compromised short term memory. It may be that you cannot find a pair of glasses while they are sitting on top of your head, or you cannot remember what you did last week, yesterday or even 10 minutes ago. It may even be that you cannot remember the name of a person you know. (Read a funny story about this.)

You may also find that a word that you know very well does not come to mind when you need it. You may have to struggle to bring it out, although most of the time it does eventually come to you. If this happens when you are writing, then people are not watching, so it’s only frustrating for yourself. However, if this happens when you are talking, other people may start noticing that you are having difficulty. This is where I struggle most.

Another effect of MCI is that it can compromise your ability to analyze and understand things in front of you. For example, you might have difficulty figuring out money when you are paying for something you just bought, or figuring out where all your money was spent. It might also be difficult finding your way in places you are familiar with. I myself haven’t really suffered from these symptoms. Even when I took an extensive cognitive test, I came out very well in this category. So, this is an aspect of MCI that might show up more in the future, particularly if my impairment progresses to early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

So, the question is what we can do about it? How can we overcome these conditions? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.

Personally I have found it to be useful to look at my condition as a challenge, rather than sitting back and dwelling on it, and thinking of it as a curse. As I stated before, dementia/Alzheimer’s disease is like a rusty tin roof. There are so many holes that plugging just one of them is not going to cure the problem. Instead we should try a number of different approaches so that we can plug as many holes as possible. I hope the items described in the Coping Strategy section will be of some help.

Overall, the best thing we can do is continue to challenge ourselves, regardless of how frustrating it might be. We need to keep writing and talking and doing all other activities you find yourself struggling with. We should put ourselves in a somewhat uncomfortable position even if we don’t feel like it, so that we are using the parts of the brain which are getting tired. Remember “Brain Plasticity”? It’s been scientifically proven that our brain can be rebuilt, and new connections can be made through these types of experiences. Ultimately, that is where our hope lies.

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