Dyadic Analysis of Illness Perceptions Among Persons with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Their Family Members

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Purpose of this study:

To characterize illness perceptions among persons with mild cognitive impairment (PWMCI) and their family care partners, and to examine whether PWMCI’s and their family care partners’ illness perceptions were associated with their own, as well as the other member of the dyad’s, emotional reactions to MCI.

Design and Methods:

This cross-sectional study of PWMCI and their family care partners (n = 60 dyads) used patient and relative versions of the Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ-R) to assess metacognitive and emotional features of illness perception in MCI along 5 dimensions of perceived: seriousness of potential consequences, personal controllability, timeline, fluctuation (cycling) of symptoms, and illness coherence (clear vs. confusing).


As compared to family members, PWMCI perceived MCI to be less potentially serious and to be more within their personal control, but dyads otherwise shared similar perceptions of MCI. Among PWMCI, perceived seriousness of the potential consequences of MCI was the only dimension to be significantly correlated with emotional distress. For family members, increased MCI-related emotional distress was significantly associated with perceptions of MCI as potentially serious, permanent, or confusing. A dyadic analysis using APIM showed that MCI-related emotional distress, in both PWMCI and family members, was linked to the PWMCI’s perception of the seriousness of MCI.


MCI-related education and support should be tailored for both the PWMCI and family member audiences, while acknowledging interdependence of illness perceptions within family units. Tailored information and support will be critical in managing MCI going forward, as illness perceptions are likely key factors on which individuals will plan for the future or base medical decisions.

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