Returning home for the holidays is a fantastic chance to think back on holidays past and make some new memories. But it’s also a time when family members can notice changes with elderly loved ones – changes that could be too slight to recognize during a phone call or FaceTime, but are glaringly obvious when in person. One of these concerns is mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Though a little bit of forgetfulness affects all of us as we get older, MCI has some distinctive characteristics to look out for.
What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
MCI denotes changes in memory skills and thinking that are impacting a person’s capacity to accomplish daily activities that had once been easy, such as preparing meals or paying bills with no assistance. These changes aren’t serious enough to meet the requirements for a dementia diagnosis, which specifies that living independently is compromised by the cognitive impairment. However, with MCI, there has been enough change from the senior’s past ability level to stand out and be worrisome.
Mild cognitive impairment can be progressive. As many as 40% of people with MCI will develop dementia within the next five years. In other cases, the degree of impairment does not progress or might even get better, so it’s important to understand that a diagnosis of MCI is not going to necessarily mean a future dementia diagnosis.
What Do I Need To Do if I Suspect MCI in an Older Loved One?
The first step is to contact the individual’s primary care physician for an evaluation. This will consist of a review of existing medications, testing for health conditions that may have similar symptoms, an interview with the senior and family members, and an assessment of cognitive abilities. If required, 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 several lifestyle changes that can be helpful, including:
- Exercise. Many studies demonstrate 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 kinds of exercise are necessary for an older person’s general health and mobility. Talk to a doctor for advice on which workouts are recommended, but in general, aerobics, flexibility, and balance exercises are important to add along with resistance training.
- Eating Right. The main focus should be on foods that influence brain health, notably, a Mediterranean diet known as the MIND diet, which includes a large quantity of vegetables and fruit, healthy fats (such as 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.
Abby Senior Care, a trusted provider of in-home elderly care in Parker, CO and the surrounding areas, is here to help older adults with mild cognitive impairment to continue to live independently in the homes they love, with the ideal level of support and care. Call us today at 303-699-8840 for more information.