Returning home for the holidays is a wonderful time to make new memories and reminisce together about holidays past. But it’s also a time when people regularly see changes in their elder loved ones – changes which may be too small to detect in the course of a phone call or FaceTime, but become glaringly obvious in person. One such concern is mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Though a little bit of forgetfulness impacts all of us as we grow older, mild cognitive impairment in older loved ones has many distinctive characteristics to look for.
What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
In a nutshell, MCI denotes changes in memory skills and thinking that impact a person’s capacity to complete day-to-day activities that had once been easy, such as preparing meals or paying bills without assistance. These changes are not significant enough to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of dementia, which specifies that living independently is compromised because of the cognitive impairment. Still, there has been enough change from the older adult’s previous ability level to stand out and be worrisome.
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 instances, the level of impairment stays the same or could even improve, so it’s crucial to know that a diagnosis of MCI is not going to inevitably mean a future diagnosis of dementia.
What Should I Do if I Suspect MCI in an Older Loved One?
The first step is to contact the individual’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 person and family members, and an office-based cognitive abilities assessment. If warranted, the person will likely 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. Additionally, there are lifestyle changes that may be helpful, like:
- Exercise. Several studies are showing encouraging results on the effects of exercise on MCI. Though one study revealed that it is particularly helpful to include resistance training, we know that other types of exercise are very important for an older person’s general health and mobility. Talk to the doctor for advice on which workouts are recommended, but in general, aerobics, flexibility, and balance exercises are important to add alongside resistance training.
- Eating Habits. The focus should be on foods that influence brain health, notably, a Mediterranean diet known as the MIND diet, which includes plenty of vegetables and fruit, healthy fats (such as from nuts and avocados), legumes, fish, and beans. Foods that contain added sugar or trans fats, as well as meats and packaged or fast foods, should be avoided.
The Chesterfield memory care experts at Compassionate Nursing Services are here to enable older adults with mild cognitive impairment to continue to reside safely and happily at home, with the ideal level of support. Call us at 314-432-4312 to learn more. For a full list of the communities where we offer our award-winning home care services, visit our Service Area page.