Background: The aim of this study was to explore experiences of cognitive impairment, its consequences in everyday life and need for support in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or mild dementia and their relatives.
Methods: A qualitative approach with an explorative design with interviews was chosen. The participants included five people with MCI and eight people with mild dementia and their relatives. All participants were recruited at a geriatric memory clinic in Sweden. The Grounded Theory method was used.
Results: The following categories emerged: noticing cognitive changes; changed activity patterns; coping strategies; uncertainty about own ability and environmental reactions; support in everyday life; support from the healthcare system; consequences in everyday life for relatives; and support for relatives. The main findings were that people with MCI and dementia experienced cognitive changes that could be burdensome and changed activity patterns. Most of them, however, considered themselves capable of coping on their own. The relatives noticed cognitive changes and activity disruptions to a greater extent and tried to be supportive in everyday life. Degree of awareness varied and lack of awareness could lead to many problems in everyday life.
Conclusions: Perceived cognitive impairment and its consequences in everyday life were individual and differed among people with MCI or dementia and their relatives. Thus, healthcare professionals must listen to both people with cognitive impairment and their relatives for optimal individual care planning. Support such as education groups and day care could be more tailored towards the early stages of dementia.
Keywords: qualitative research.