Background: The notion of “minimal impairment in instrumental activities of daily living (i-ADL)” is important in the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), but is presently not adequately operationalized. ADL is stratified according to difficulty, complexity, and also to vulnerability to early cognitive changes in a threefold hierarchy: basic activities of daily living (b-ADL), i-ADL, and advanced activities of daily living (a-ADL). This study aims to gain a deeper understanding of the functional decline in the process of MCI.
Methods: In a qualitative design, 37 consecutive patients diagnosed with amnestic (a)-MCI and their proxies were interviewed at two geriatric day hospitals. Constant comparative analysis was used for the analysis.
Results: The a-ADL-concept emerged as important in the diagnosis of MCI. All participants were engaged in a wide range of activities, which could be clustered according to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). Participants reported subtle difficulties in performance. A process of functional decline was identified in which adaptation and coping mechanisms interacted with the process of reduced skills, leading to an activity disruption and an insufficiency in functioning.
Conclusion: This study asserts the inclusion of an evaluation of a-ADL in the assessment of older persons. When evaluating ADL at three levels (b-ADL, i-ADL, and a-ADL), all the activities one can perform in daily living are covered.