This past week, scientists, doctors, and researchers from around the globe got together to discuss a topic of great concern to many caregivers: Alzheimer's.

The six-day, 2012 Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC), held in Vancouver, Canada, played host to a number of studies and presentations on the disease, which affects an estimated one out of every eight older Americans.

The latest findings presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference included two studies regarding the impact of mild cognitive impairment.

MCI: Mild Cognitive Impairment

The term ‘mild cognitive impairment' (MCI) has been used to categorize seniors whose mental capacities are more diminished than normal, but who have yet to develop full-blown dementia. MCI has previously been linked with an increased risk for developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. But recent research has also linked it with a greater risk for isolation and death. In the first study, scientists from the Oregon Health and Science University found that, as an MCI sufferer's symptoms become more pronounced, they will retreat more and more from society. By measuring the amount of time that seniors (both those with MCI, and those without) spent outside of their homes, the researchers were able to see the effect of cognitive impairment on a person's social engagement. At the beginning of the study, seniors with and without MCI spent about 4.5 hours away from their homes each day. At the end, this number had decreased to 3.8 hours for cognitively normal seniors and 2.4 hours for MCI sufferers.

The second study, carried out by researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, found that people with MCI have a risk of death that is 2.17 times higher than that of their cognitively healthy peers, while those with dementia had a 3.26 times higher risk of death. According to an AAIC press release, Ronald Petersen, Ph.D., M.D., a member of the Alzheimer's Association Board of Directors, says, "Cognitive impairment of any kind is serious, and requires increased medical and personal attention. These studies validate the challenges of people living with MCI and their families and speak to the need for physician education to better manage their cognitive impairment and its broader impact on a person's physical, mental and social health."