Mild Cognitive Impairment Symptom: Difficulty Making Choices

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Note: Whether a glitch is normal or indicates a problem depends on many factors best evaluated by a professional, such as a geriatric psychiatrist or neuropsychologist. It's important to realize that changes in cognition and memory tend to fall along a spectrum. This symptom is considered a sign of concern that warrants an evaluation if it happens consistently or begins to interfere with daily life, especially if this is a change (new or different).

Why it happens

Choosing involves weighing two ideas simultaneously and making judgments about them, as well as remembering previous thoughts about the two ideas -- all cognitive skills that can be affected early.

What you can do

  • Have patience; try not to rush the person, as this creates a pressure that makes thinking harder. With extra time you may get the answer.

  • Circumvent the need to choose where it doesn't matter. Instead of, "What looks good to you?" say, "Oh, look, your favorite pasta dish is on the menu."

  • Simplify the choices to two or three items, rather than asking broad, open-ended questions. Or suggest to the person with MCI that he or she might ask a trusted friend or relative to present just the two or three best options.

  • Suggest simplifying his or her wardrobe, if getting dressed is taking longer. Many business magnates have streamlined their clothing choices to black pants and white shirts, or other trademark "uniforms."

  • Beware of multiple purchases of similar objects; someone who can't decide between two flavors of a food item may buy both, for example.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio