happy caregiver shoppig with senior lady

Going home for the holidays is a fantastic chance to think back on holidays past and make some new memories. But it’s also an occasion when family members typically discover changes to their senior loved ones – changes that could be too minor to detect during a phone call or FaceTime, but are glaringly obvious in person. One such concern is mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Though a bit of forgetfulness impacts us all as we get older, MCI has some distinctive characteristics to watch for. Learn how to spot MCI in older loved ones with the tips below.

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

MCI denotes alterations in memory skills and thinking that impact a person’s ability to accomplish daily tasks that had once been easy, such as paying bills or making meals without help. These changes aren’t significant enough to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of dementia, which specifies that independent living is compromised by the cognitive impairment. However, there has been enough change from the senior’s previous ability level to be noticeable and troublesome.

Mild cognitive impairment can be progressive. Up to 40% of people with MCI will develop dementia within the next 5 years. In other situations, the degree of impairment does not progress or could even improve, so it’s crucial to understand that a diagnosis of MCI will not necessarily mean a future dementia diagnosis.

What Can I Do if I Think a Loved One Has MCI?

The first step is to contact the person’s primary care physician for an evaluation. This will include a review of existing medications, testing for health conditions that may have similar symptoms, an interview with the senior and family members, and an office-based cognitive abilities assessment. If justified, the person will be referred to a specialist for additional testing.

What Treatment Options Are Available for MCI?

There are several medications that may be recommended to help prevent the progression of the person’s cognitive impairment. Also, there are changes in lifestyle that can be helpful, including:

  • Physical Exercise. Many studies demonstrate promising results on the effects of exercise on MCI. Though one study revealed that it is especially helpful to include resistance training, we know that other types of exercise are very important for an older person’s general health and mobility. Consult with the doctor for suggestions about which workouts are recommended, but in general, balance, aerobics, and flexibility exercises are important to add along with resistance training.
  • Diet. The focus should be on foods that influence brain health, notably, a Mediterranean diet known as the MIND diet, which includes lots of vegetables and fruits, healthy fats (like those found in 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.

Inspired Home Care, a trusted provider of memory care in Arlington Heights, IL and the nearby areas, is here to enable older adults with mild cognitive impairment to continue to live safely and happily at home, with just the right level of support and care. Give us a call at 847-787-7572 to learn more.