How does MCI (mild cognitive impairment) affect the lives of those living with it? What’s a typical day for them?
That’s what Tigist Hailu, coordinator for Diversity in Research and Education at the Penn Memory Center, hopes to discover, using photos and in-depth interviews. “We want to understand the lives of older adults diagnosed with MCI by using photos as a tool to encourage conversation,” she said.
People with MCI, a disorder that affects as many of 20 percent of Americans age 65 and older, have a measurable memory impairment. Although studies suggest that they are experiencing the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, “having MCI doesn’t mean you’ll get dementia. It could stay the same in a year, improve, or could decline to dementia,” said Hailu, who is also a part-time student in Penn’s Public Heath master’s program. “Close follow-up helps to sort this out.”
While this level of cognitive impairment is not as serious as dementia, it does affect instrumental activities of daily living, a term that describes the ability to do life’s daily tasks such as managing medications, cooking and taking care of bills. As part of the study, participants will take photos that “represent or reflect features of their every-day life that frustrate, assist or challenge their memory and the tools they use to overcome them,” she said.