|Photo by Keoni Cabral.|
As a gerontologist, I am interested in the labels that people use to describe older adults, since language can filter how we see people and treat people. Sometimes these filters are ageist.
Over time, people have used an array of terms to describe neurological and cognitive problems as experienced by older adults.
Some might remember that the word "senile" was prevalent in the early 20th century.
In the last few decades, people have switched to using the word "dementia," but it's very broad. It's used to describe an array of neurological or cognitive problems.
In addition to being too broad of a term, the word "dementia" is related to the word "demented," which means "insane." For these and other reasons, the American Psychological Association (APA) scrutinized the origins of "dementia"-- which original meaning is tied to "madness" -- and introduced a new term in the newest edition of their diagnostic manual.
Neurocognitive Disorders (NCD)
"Neuro" refers to the physical brain.
"Cognitive" refers to the thought processes within the brain.
The term "disorder" recognizes that there is a medical cause for problems residing in the brain or thoughts.
Furthermore, disorders are categorized as "major" or "minor" NCD.
Professionals such as neurologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists received officially notification of this new term in the May 2013 publication of the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM 5). This was just one of many changes.
However, the catalyst for this change took shape in 2008 as a result of an APA workgroup.
Dementias, such as those addressed by the Alzheimer's Organization, are not the only type of disorders falling under this new umbrella term NCD.
For example, problems due traumatic brain injury (TBI) and problems due to advanced HIV are also types of neurocognitive disorder.
I first encountered the term NCD while reading the introduction to Marc Agrogin's 2015 book, The Dementia Caregiver: A Guide to Caring for Someone with Alzheimer's Disease and Other Neurocognitive Disorders.
I picked up his 2015 after reading his 2011 book How We Age.
Doctors and hospitals must now use DSM 5 classification systems in order to file insurance, so NCD is becoming established in those realms.
While medical researchers and clinicians might be using "neurocognitive disorder" to describe various disorders of the brain/mind, most lay people, including support groups, persist in using the more recognized--and shorter--term "dementia."
Cognitive Changes: The Usual Suspects
Another Marc Agronin book: How We Age: A Review