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Help UW Better Understand the Everyday Experience of Life with Mild Cognitive Impairment

Have you noticed yourself forgetting names of acquaintances or common items? Or, maybe keeping track of complicated instructions or directions has become more difficult. If so, you’re not alone!

Many older adults find themselves wondering whether such changes are normal or not. Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, refers to decline in one’s cognition (thinking abilities, including memory) that is greater than the expected decline of normal aging but not as severe as the impairment seen in dementia. However, the cognitive changes of MCI are not severe enough to cause disability—people with MCI still engage in normal daily life and activities.

With an increasing number of older adults experiencing mild cognitive impairment, it is important to better understand it and also promote awareness of what daily life looks like for people who experience it.

University of Washington researchers are currently seeking participants for a research project called “A Typical Week: Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment.”

Study participant Rosa (name has been changed) has MCI. Rosa first noticed symptoms when she worked in the financial industry. She has since retired yet maintains an active and engaged life. Rosa lives in an accessible part of downtown Seattle where she can take public transportation anywhere. Indeed, she uses public transportation to stay engaged in the community and go to various events, and she likes the option to take public transportation as she knows she won’t always be able to drive independently.

In addition to staying involved in her community, exercise is an extremely important part of Rosa’s daily life, helping her to maintain both physical and cognitive fitness. Not only does Rosa go to the gym in her condominium building, she also walks all over downtown, continually asking herself, “Is there someplace new to explore?”

Rosa loves living in a dynamic place that keeps her curious. Rosa shared that while she never played with LEGOs as a child, she has picked them up as an adult for cognitive stimulation. She has found playing with LEGOs to be a great challenge akin to a puzzle. Rosa’s story helps researchers better understand how memory challenges influence everyday life.

The UW “Typical Week” study is for adults ages 60+ with diagnosed MCI. Once deemed eligible, study participants use their smartphone or digital camera to take pictures of their daily life for one week, with special attention to challenges or accommodations due to memory changes. Following a week of taking photos, participants have an hour-long telephone interview with a researcher to discuss their photos and share their story of everyday life with MCI.

Anyone interested in learning more or participating in the “A Typical Week” study can e-mail or call 334-451-4576.

If you are concerned about your memory or thinking abilities, speak with your primary care provider. The Alzheimer’s Association website also has helpful information about early signs and symptoms of memory loss.

Contributor Jenny Wool is a graduate research assistant at the University of Washington involved in “A Typical Week: Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment.”