What is the difference between normal aging and a potential impairment problem due to cognitive decline?
Normal again includes those “senior moments” that we can joke about but are transitory like misplacing keys, temporarily searching for the right word or forgetting a name of an acquaintance. This is mild cognitive impairment (MCI) which is an expected stage related to aging. Approximately 20% of Americans 65 and older have MCI. MCI likely does not pose a risk of impairment in the practice of law.
Impairment from significant cognitive decline, which is not MCI, includes:
- Problems performing daily tasks on a consistent basis
- Trouble recalling the right words or repeating one's self during a conversation
- Forgetting the names of close colleagues, friends or family members
- Misplacing an object and then no identifying that object as their own (Exmaple: misplacing glasses and then not recognizing those glasses as their own or that they even need glasses at all.)
- Poor motor control or coordination
- Frequent falling
- Emotional outbursts
- Appearing dazed and confused
These signs and symptoms often lead to a diagnosable case of Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia. These are objective medical conditions that are diagnosed using specific criteria. Only a comprehensive medical exam can yield a diagnosis, often in conjunction with MRI brain scans, psycho-neurological examinations and blood tests. Self-tests alone should not be used to formulate action or treatment plans.