Mourning me: An interpretive description of grief and identity loss in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI)




Ali, Jordan I.

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Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) has long been associated with depression; however, few studies have addressed the presence of (prolonged) intrapersonal grief or its contribution to emotional distress in MCI. This may be a result of both an over-reliance on interpersonal models of grief (i.e. bereavement) and a systematic undervaluing of MCI individuals’ perspectives. Thus, this study took a qualitative approach, using interpretive description, to understand the first-hand experience of persons with MCI, with the intent of 1) determining whether grief occurs for this group and, if so, 2) comparing this experience to well-defined grief constructs. Six themes were identified: Uncertainty and ambiguity, losses of self and role, disenfranchisement and disconnection, primacy of MCI, emotional distress, and coping. A relationship between themes was found, such that uncertainty and ambiguity, losses of self and role, and disenfranchisement and disconnection comprised the core dimensions of the MCI experience, with losses of self and role serving a central and binding role between the other two. These core dimensions then contributed individually and collectively to the primacy of the MCI experience and emotional distress, which in turn exhibited a reciprocal relationship with coping. The overall experience of MCI reflects features of several grief reactions to nonfinite loss, most notably chronic sorrow and disenfranchised grief. Implications for practice and further investigation are discussed.



Mild cognitive impairment, grief, nonfinite loss, aging, bereavement, identity, self concept, dementia