Mild cognitive impairment: coping with an uncertain label

Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2008 Feb;23(2):148-54. doi: 10.1002/gps.1855.


Background: The recently introduced diagnostic label of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) identifies patients with a cognitive decline that is more pronounced than is usual for a person's age and educational level but does not notably interfere with activities of daily living (ADL). The natural course of the syndrome is uncertain although MCI sufferers have a higher risk of developing dementia.

Objectives: To investigate how patients fulfilling MCI criteria experience and cope with their cognitive decline with the secondary aim to derive key themes for a prospective MCI support-group programme.

Methods: The grounded theory approach.

Results: Analysis of guided interviews with eight MCI patients revealed four common themes. Changes related to cognitive abilities, mobility, affect, vitality and somatic complaints. Attributions were numerous and concerned aetiologies such as personality traits and overload of information. Consequences were all negative and concerned the patients themselves such as anxiety and loss of self-confidence, others such as feelings of irritation and anger towards others or activities like abandoning leisure activities. Patients applied emotion-oriented, problem-focused and avoidant coping strategies.

Conclusion: MCI patients encounter stress-inducing practical, social and psychological difficulties. Based on the current preliminary findings, the key themes for an MCI support-group programme should include the provision of information about the syndrome's causes, course, concomitant symptoms, attributions, social consequences, and available treatments. The impact of receiving an MCI label warrants further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety
  • Cognition Disorders / classification*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Depression
  • Disease Progression
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Middle Aged