Returning home for the holidays is a great opportunity to make new memories and reminisce together about holidays past. However,, it’s also a time when family members frequently observe changes with older loved ones – changes that may be too small to recognize during a phone call or FaceTime, but are glaringly noticeable in person. One of these concerns is mild cognitive impairment in senior loved ones, or MCI. While a little bit of forgetfulness affects us all as we grow older, MCI has many distinctive characteristics to watch for.
What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
MCI denotes alterations in thinking and memory skills that are impacting a person’s ability to accomplish everyday tasks that had once been easy, such as paying bills or making meals without help. These changes aren’t severe enough to meet the requirements for a dementia diagnosis, which specifies that living independently is compromised because of the decline in cognitive skills. Nevertheless, there has been enough change from the senior’s past ability level to be noticeable and troublesome.
Mild cognitive impairment can be progressive. Up to 40% of those with MCI will develop dementia over the course of the next 5 years. In other situations, the level of impairment does not progress or might even improve, so it’s worthwhile to be aware that a diagnosis of MCI is not going to automatically mean a future diagnosis of dementia.
What Can I Do if I Suspect MCI in an Older Loved One?
The first step is to get in touch with the individual’s primary care physician for an assessment. This will consist of an evaluation of existing medications, screening for health issues that may have similar symptoms, an interview with the individual and members of the family, and an assessment of cognitive abilities. If warranted, the individual will be referred to a specialist for more testing.
What Treatment Options Are Available for MCI?
There are several medications that may be recommended to stop the development of the person’s cognitive impairment. Also, there are lifestyle changes that may be helpful, such as:
- Physical Exercise. Many studies are showing promising results on the effects of exercise on MCI. Though one study revealed that it is specifically beneficial to incorporate resistance training, we know that other types of exercise are necessary for an older person’s all-around health and mobility. Talk with the physician for suggestions about which workouts are recommended, but in general, aerobics, flexibility, and balance exercises are worthwhile to incorporate along with resistance training.
- Diet. The main focus should be on foods that affect brain health, like a Mediterranean diet known as the MIND diet, which includes plenty of vegetables and fruit, healthy fats (such as from nuts and avocados), fish, beans, and legumes. Foods that contain added sugar or trans fats, as well as meats and packaged or fast foods, should be avoided.
Hearts at Home In-Home Care, one of the top-rated home care agencies in Kansas City and nearby areas, is here to help older adults with mild cognitive impairment to continue to reside safely and happily at home, with the ideal level of support. Call us today at 913-440-4209 for more information.