Objective: Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) may involve subtle functional losses that are not detected with typical self- or informant-report assessments of daily function. Information about the nature of functional difficulties in MCI can be used to augment common clinical assessment procedures, and aspects of function that are affected in MCI can serve as meaningful endpoints for intervention trials.
Design: Cross-sectional case and comparison group study.
Setting: University medical center.
Participants: Fifty participants with MCI and 59 cognitively normal participants.
Measurements: The authors compared the groups on dimensions of both speed and accuracy in performing instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), using a standardized Timed IADL measure that evaluates five functional domains commonly encountered in everyday life (telephone use, locating nutrition information on food labels, financial abilities, grocery shopping, medication management).
Results: Across Timed IADL domains, MCI participants demonstrated accuracy comparable with cognitively normal participants but took significantly longer to complete the functional activities, controlling for depressive symptoms (p< 0.001). Slower performance was demonstrated in each discrete domain except financial abilities.
Conclusion: These results suggest that slower speed of task performance is an important component and perhaps an early marker of functional change in MCI that would not be detected using traditional measurements of daily function. Future research should address the question of whether performance-based functional measures, as well as simple queries regarding whether functional activities take longer than usual to complete, may improve the prediction of future cognitive decline and disease progression among those individuals in whom MCI represents impending dementia.