Research Fellow Dr Meredith Gresham from UNSW Sydney’s Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing has been awarded one of two prestigious Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG) Hal Kendig Research Development Grants to improve the post-diagnostic experience for people with mild cognitive impairment, as well as their families.
The $20,000 award will support a series of innovative triadic interviews with people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, their main support person, and the diagnosing doctor, with the aim of better understanding what information and intervention are needed to enable people not only to cope with the diagnosis - but continue to live life to the full.
Dr Gresham, who is Study Coordinator of the CHeBA-led research consortium COGNISANCE (Co-Designing Diagnosis And Post Diagnostic Care) says that people with MCI have been described as “falling through the cracks” of health information and support systems.
“People with MCI present to the doctor after noticing changes in their thinking and sometimes function,” says Dr Gresham.
“However, having a diagnosis of MCI means living with uncertainty.
"Whilst MCI is described as a state between cognitive ageing and dementia, the exact characteristics that predispose individuals to develop dementia are unclear."
Dr Meredith Gresham
According to researchers, prevalence estimates vary, but more than 30% of a community sample of 873 Australians aged 70-90 were found to have MCI.
There is an increasing push to diagnose MCI, with the reason being to commence intervention to delay the onset of dementia. However, some people find diagnosis unhelpful when faced with uncertain prognosis and limited or controversial pharmaceutical treatment.
CHeBA Co-Director Professor Henry Brodaty says that although evidence-based, non-pharmacological interventions that will help delay dementia and manage symptoms of MCI is growing, this information is difficult to obtain, and people are often unwilling to use services identified for people with dementia.
"This project aims to determine what information and intervention are wanted and needed as well as the most acceptable ways to disseminate information to people with MCI and their families."
Professor Henry Brodaty
This important foundational work led by Dr Gresham is intended to guide a larger study where informational resources are developed and disseminated.