Going home for the holidays is a great chance to think back on holidays past and make some new memories. It is also a time when family members may uncover changes to their elder loved ones – changes that may be too small to detect during a phone call or FaceTime, but become glaringly evident in person. One of these concerns is mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. While a little bit of forgetfulness affects all of us as we grow older, MCI has many distinctive characteristics to watch for.
What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
MCI denotes changes in thinking and memory skills that impact a person’s ability to perform daily activities that had once been effortless, such as paying bills or making meals with no assistance. These changes aren’t severe enough to meet the requirements for a diagnosis of dementia, which specifies that living independently is compromised because of the decline in cognitive skills. However, there has been enough change from the person’s previous ability level to be noticeable and troublesome.
Mild cognitive impairment can be progressive. As many as 40% of those with MCI will develop dementia within the subsequent five years. In other instances, the degree of impairment stays the same or could even improve, so it’s important to understand that a diagnosis of MCI isn’t going to automatically mean a future dementia diagnosis.
What Can I Do if I Suspect MCI in an Older Loved One?
The first step is to contact the person’s primary care physician for an assessment. This may consist of a review of existing medications, testing for health conditions that may have similar symptoms, an interview with the senior and members of the family, and an assessment of cognitive abilities. If called for, the person will then be referred to a specialist for additional testing.
Are There Treatment Options Available for MCI?
There are several medications that may be suggested to prevent the progression of the person’s cognitive impairment. Additionally, there are lifestyle changes that may be helpful, such as:
- Physical Exercise. A number of studies are showing encouraging results on the effects of exercise on MCI. Though one study revealed that it is especially beneficial to include resistance training, we know that other types of exercise are important for an older person’s overall health and mobility. Talk with the doctor for advice on which exercises are recommended, but in general, balance, aerobics, and flexibility exercises are worthwhile to add along with resistance training.
- Eating Right. The main focus should be on foods that affect brain health, such as a Mediterranean diet known as the MIND diet, which includes lots of fruit and veggies, healthy fats (such as nuts and avocados), fish, beans, and legumes. Foods that contain added sugar or trans fats, as well as processed meats and packaged or fast foods, should be avoided.
Absolute Companion Care, an award-winning provider of home and memory care in Towson, MD and the nearby areas, is here to enable older adults with mild cognitive impairment to continue to reside independently in the homes they love, with the ideal level of support. Contact us at 410-357-9640 to learn more.