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What Is Neurocognitive Impairment?

Neurocognitive impairment refers to a decline in brain functions like memory, attention, and decision-making. It can stem from various causes, including injury, disease, or aging. Understanding its impact on daily life is crucial for managing its effects. Curious about how this condition might be influencing you or your loved ones? Discover more about the signs and strategies for coping with neurocognitive challenges.
J.M. Willhite
J.M. Willhite

Neurocognitive impairment is a serious condition marked by the progressive loss of one’s mental faculties over time. Often known simply as dementia, signs of neurocognitive impairment are not confined to memory loss alone. Individuals often experience difficulty articulating and processing information, as well as behavioral and interpersonal difficulties. Treatment for dementia is entirely dependent on one’s symptoms and usually involves drug therapy.

A comprehensive physical examination and medical history is essential to confirming neurocognitive impairment is taking place. Individuals experiencing difficulty processing information are given a battery of tests to evaluate their intellectual ability, including language, reasoning, and memory skills. Psychiatric and laboratory testing may also be conducted. It is not uncommon for some neurological testing, including imaging tests of the brain, to be performed to rule out other conditions, such as stroke or tumor.

Physicians need specialized empathy and listening skills when assessing elderly patients with neurocognitive impairment.
Physicians need specialized empathy and listening skills when assessing elderly patients with neurocognitive impairment.

Changes in one’s brain chemistry that contribute to the onset of dementia symptoms are often irreversible. Considered a degenerative condition, neurocognitive impairment can be triggered by an underlying condition, such as HIV/AIDS and Parkinson’s disease. It is also possible for physiological changes within the brain, including arterial narrowing and loss of nerve function, to cause dementia. The most widely known form of neurocognitive impairment is Alzheimer’s disease, which primarily affects reasoning and memory.

Signs of neurocognitive impairment are not confined to memory loss alone.
Signs of neurocognitive impairment are not confined to memory loss alone.

Individuals with neurocognitive impairment may not demonstrate any pronounced symptoms at first. Although memory loss is one of the classic signs of dementia, it isn’t the only sign. As brain function deteriorates, people experience difficulty articulating their thoughts and are unable to properly process and retain information. An inability to express one’s self can lead to frustration and behavioral issues that impact social situations and interpersonal relationships. As brain function continues to diminish, some people experience hallucinations, paranoia, and personality changes.

The most widely known form of neurocognitive impairment is Alzheimer’s disease.
The most widely known form of neurocognitive impairment is Alzheimer’s disease.

If signs of dementia are ignored, the individual’s independence and safety is often jeopardized. Individuals with neurocognitive impairment gradually lose the ability to care for themselves. It is not uncommon for dementia to cause one to forget to shower, eat, or take his or her medication. If one loses the ability to communicate, it further complicates his or her situation. During the later stages of dementia, it is often necessary for a third party to step in to help care for the individual.

A neurocognitive impairment may cause an elderly person to neglect to eat.
A neurocognitive impairment may cause an elderly person to neglect to eat.

Initially following a diagnosis, treatment for dementia involves drug therapy to slow disease progression. In order to manage one’s symptoms, drugs designed to regulate brain chemistry, such as cholinesterase inhibitors like Aricept, are often prescribed. Depending on one’s condition, antidepressant medication may also be given. Individuals with dementia and their families are frequently encouraged to join a support group to educate them about the condition, build a network of support, and foster healthy coping skills.

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    • Physicians need specialized empathy and listening skills when assessing elderly patients with neurocognitive impairment.
      By: spotmatikphoto
      Physicians need specialized empathy and listening skills when assessing elderly patients with neurocognitive impairment.
    • Signs of neurocognitive impairment are not confined to memory loss alone.
      By: rainbow33
      Signs of neurocognitive impairment are not confined to memory loss alone.
    • The most widely known form of neurocognitive impairment is Alzheimer’s disease.
      By: kolotype
      The most widely known form of neurocognitive impairment is Alzheimer’s disease.
    • A neurocognitive impairment may cause an elderly person to neglect to eat.
      By: Grafvision
      A neurocognitive impairment may cause an elderly person to neglect to eat.
    • Dementia and other neurocognitive disorders affect how the brain handles and stores information.
      By: riccardo bruni
      Dementia and other neurocognitive disorders affect how the brain handles and stores information.
    • Patients suffering from dementia may be prone to wandering away from home.
      By: Petr Nad
      Patients suffering from dementia may be prone to wandering away from home.