The diagnosis is Mild Cognitive Impairment with an Alzheimer’s pattern.
What does that mean? It means that tests have shown that I do have a memory problem. The tests done by the psychologist confirm what I already knew – I’m not firing on all four cylinders. She didn’t put it like that of course.
I found the testing procedure quite intriguing. They (whoever developed these tests) establish a base line, taking into account your educational and social background, what job or profession you’ve worked in, how active you are now, socially and intellectually – you get the drift.
The tests are designed to establish if your performance matches their prognosis and if not in what way is there a mismatch. MCI can be due to a variety of causes ranging from depression to Alzheimer’s disease but responses to the tests will be different according to the underlying cause. In my case, all other health problems had previously been examined and with the possible exception of depression, had been discounted.
Apparently, I was deemed as being above average as a base line. The psychologist therefore had expectations for each different test and although I scored above average on some tests, in areas that relied on memory and recall, I didn’t do so well, with below average scores. There were areas where she could see I was trying to develop a strategy to provide the answers she required and she expected me to do that.
“Because that’s what people with an above average base line do.”
“But,” she added, “it didn’t work because you were below average on memory and recall.”
They can’t diagnose Alzheimer’s because the scans 'showed no definite pattern of abnormalities to diagnose a neuro-degenerative syndrome.'
Because the tests show a below average score for memory, recall AND LANGUAGE (I didn’t see that one coming) they refer to it as MCI with an Alzheimer’s pattern which means that if the MCI develops further, Alzheimer’s disease is what it’s likely to develop into.
So what does that mean for the future – for my future?
Well, it’s a waiting game which I’m not supposed to spend the rest of my life dwelling upon.
A percentage of people with this type of MCI (something in the region of 10 – 20%) do go on to develop Alzheimer’s but when you have close relatives who have already succumbed to the disease that percentage rises quite significantly. There is current research going on to try and provide a more accurate assessment of who will develop AD and who won't.
I have the option of being retested in 12 months time and I’ve been offered one to one counselling or group therapy if I would like it. Meanwhile, I’m also doing my own research to establish changes in my life that may possibly slow down the deterioration of my brain function.
There’s a lot of information out there, it’s about sifting the unrealistic and slightly crazy from the ‘it makes sense and I can and should do this.’
So watch this space.
I’ve already embarked on a healthy eating regime and I’m trying to develop a better sleeping pattern. Overturning the bad habits of a lifetime isn’t for cissies.