"If you look at individuals in the community, you see a much slower progression to dementia in those with some mild cognitive impairment," she said. "The time to develop dementia once someone has mild cognitive impairment is probably slower in the general population of older adults than we had previously thought."
Still, any kind of early warning is helpful, and Farias believes health-care providers should ask patients and those who know them well -- a spouse or adult child -- about how they are doing in their daily lives.
"It is important to keep in mind that sometimes individuals themselves lack awareness of some of these problems. So it is important, if at all possible, to get feedback from individuals who are familiar with how the older adult is functioning in their daily life," she added.
If there is evidence or suspicion that an older adult has some mild cognitive or memory problems, and it is starting to interfere with their ability to do daily activities, there is a higher likelihood this individual is developing a dementia and they should be closely monitored, Farias said.
Greg M. Cole, a neuroscientist at the Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System and associate director of the Alzheimer's Center at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, said it is crucial to be able to identify people with early Alzheimer's disease, "if we want to test methods of preventing it."
This study illustrates the difficulties in early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease in aging people with mild problems with memory and cognition, Cole said.
"In my view, because memory and cognitive performance vary widely in our population no matter what age, the best indications of ongoing decline are going to be seen against past indiv
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