"I was told my loved one has a cognitive impairment. What does that mean?"

Last November, I had the privilege of spending the evening with participants of the Parkinson's Carepartner Group at the headquarter location for Rock Steady Boxing here in Indianapolis. I provided education and support on the topic of cognitive decline that some individuals face in relation to Parkinson's disease. An estimated 50-80% of individuals coping with Parkinson's disease will eventually experience dementia along with the disease progression.


Towards the beginning of the evening I asked those in attendance to go around the table and share either a question or specific example, related to cognitive decline, that they hoped to have addressed during the session. We got all the way around the table and the second to last individual asked, "What exactly IS cognition?"



So what exactly IS cognition?


The dictionary definition of cognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experiences, and the senses.


Individuals presenting with cognitive decline may experience difficulties using the following cognitive processes:

  • attention

  • memory

  • organization

  • problem solving/reasoning

  • executive function (plan, organize, focus, task initiation, time management, etc)

In regards to cognitive-communication disorders, this means that when individuals experience deficits in the cognitive processes, areas affected may include impairments with speaking, listening, reading, writing and social interactions.


As a healthcare professional working in the skilled nursing, assisted living and memory care setting for the past 6.5 years, I know how important it is to provide this breakdown to families. How are caregivers supposed to recognize and adapt to their loved one's decline without a basic understanding of what "cognitive - decline" entails? Healthcare workers should never assume that caregivers understand the complexity of cognition and areas of deficit related to cognitive decline. Although I wish I would have provided that education at the start of the session, I am truly appreciative for the caregiver who was not afraid to ask!


Support services such as those provided by The Memory Compass provide families with tools and strategies to enhance the cognitive processes impacted by cognitive decline. For example, individualized recommendations may be made on how to adapt the environment in order to promote attention. Individualized memory aids may be developed and caregivers and individuals trained on use to enhance memory function. If your loved one is experiencing difficulty with problem solving through how to operate the tv remote or sequencing through familiar daily tasks, compensatory strategies can be developed to support families on this journey.


Note: For more information regarding the benefit of Parkinson's Boxing Classes and to find a class near you please visit https://www.rocksteadyboxing.org/parkinsons-boxing-classes/


By: Jessie Hillock, M. A., CCC-SLP

Owner of The Memory Compass LLC

A mobile private practice in Zionsville, Indiana and surrounding communities providing in-home outpatient Memory Therapy and Family Coaching to individuals and families coping with Alzheimer's, dementia, and other memory impairments.



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