If you notice memory loss becoming more frequent and increasingly disrupting day-to-day life, it is worth speaking to a healthcare professional to investigate whether it could be MCI, which can progress to dementia. If detected early, there is a better chance for proper management, which could help address its progression and enable you to get support if needed2.

What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Mild Cognitive Impairment is a transition state between normal cognition and dementia.

While it’s normal to experience some memory-related issues as we age, if your memory function begins to display more frequent changes and increasingly disrupt aspects of daily life, you may want to explore whether it could be Mild Cognitive Impairment by speaking with a healthcare professional.


Recognising Signs and Symptoms

It is currently estimated that people with MCI have a 3 to 5 times increased risk of developing dementia within the next 10 years than others their age3. Since many with MCI still maintain the ability to independently perform most activities required for daily living, it’s easy to disregard any symptoms as simply a normal part of ageing. Ignoring symptoms may prevent many from receiving a diagnosis and the chance to manage its progression. Some signs may be normal to experience, so it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional.

Early diagnosis and management of Mild Cognitive Impairment can help to better manage its progression.

To help manage MCI, a healthcare professional may recommend lifestyle and diet changes such as:
    Exercising your mind and memory with puzzles, quizzes, etc.
    Making an effort to keep going out to see friends and family.
    Maintain a healthy, balanced, Mediterranean-style diet.
    Getting regular physical exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days
    Including managing high blood pressure and/or cholesterol and ceasing smoking
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It’s never an easy conversation, so here are some tips to get started:

Educating yourself on the signs and symptoms and observing your loved one will help you decide if there is cause for concern, and a reason for them to speak to their medical professional. Remember not to jump to any conclusions. It can be difficult to define how much memory impairment is considered ‘more than normal’. Your aim is to get them talking to a medical professional, not to diagnose anything yourself.

For additional support or information, you can reach out to the Dementia Australia Helpline, 1800 100 500, a 24-hour point of contact for people with any concerns about their own or a loved one’s cognition, or speak to your healthcare professional.

Your loved one may not want to discuss their memory changes or may be unaware themselves. Prepare by having a plan for the discussion, being ready for negative reactions, and having some next steps to discuss.

Ensure your loved one feels safe and comfortable to have the conversation. A setting that feels like ‘home turf’ to them, and ideally you too, can help ensure you both feel at ease enough to get through the hard parts of the conversation.

It’s important to speak to what you have noticed, and to the impact you have observed their memory loss having on their life. Remember you’re not diagnosing; you’re sharing your point of view as someone who cares about them.

They might be impatient, frustrated or even scared when you start discussing their memory loss. Remain positive and ensure you don’t push back – their point of view is as valid as yours. This could be a life-changing realisation for them, and they may need time to process it. Bring a positive outlook and remember that acting on your concerns by having the conversation comes from a place of love and support.

The next step is for your loved one to see their healthcare professional to get an assessment to investigate their symptoms and any support and management plans they might need. It can be helpful to attend this appointment together as you can both provide the GP with information that can help them understand what has been happening.

Talking to a GP Together

There are a few simple things to keep in mind so you can both get the most out of the visit.

Allow enough time to thoroughly discuss both of your concerns. Let your loved one lead the conversation and offer support where you can.

Bring a thorough list of your concerns from your loved one and yourself, the signs of memory loss you have noticed, and any other medical details or background a GP might need to know about your loved one.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and remember to take notes – this is their chance to start to understand what may be happening, and what can be done.

There is no single test for MCI, and it can be difficult to make a diagnosis early on. A doctor may ask for additional tests to be conducted, such as blood or cognitive function tests to better inform their assessment. They may refer your loved one to a specialist like a geriatrician, psychiatrist, neurologist, or neuropsychologist.

Remember not to jump to conclusions before your appointment or to cause any alarm. There are many reasons for memory-related issues. The GP will be your best resource for information about what is happening, what it could mean, and what happens next.

Finding out that a loved one has MCI can leave you both with many emotions. For some people, it can be upsetting or may come as a shock. For others, it can be confirmation of something they’ve long suspected. Make sure you create space for these feelings, use the emotional support networks you have, and speak to your GP about support they can help you access.


  1. *Woodward M. MedicineToday 2022; 23(12): 55-59
  2. Mild Cognitive Impairment, Dementia Australia. Available at: https://www.dementia.org.au/about-dementia-and-memory-loss/about-dementia/memory-loss/mild-cognitive-impairment (Accessed: 19 September 2023)
  3. Campbell N et al. Risk Factors for the Progression of Mild Cognitive Impariment Impairment to Dementia. 2013. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5915285/ (Accessed: 19 September 2023)
  4. Soininen H et al. Alzheimer’s Dement. 2020; 1–12