happy caregiver shoppig with senior lady

Returning home for the holidays is a wonderful opportunity to reflect back on holidays past and make some new memories. But it’s also an occasion when family members frequently observe changes with their older loved ones – changes that could be too small to recognize on a phone call or FaceTime, but become glaringly apparent in person. One of these concerns is mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Although a certain amount of forgetfulness impacts all of us as we get older, MCI has many distinctive characteristics to look at for. These tips can help you understand how to spot MCI in loved ones.

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

MCI denotes changes in memory skills and thinking that are impacting a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks that had once been effortless, such as preparing meals or paying bills with no help. These changes aren’t significant enough to meet the criteria for a dementia diagnosis, which specifies that living independently is compromised because of the decline in cognitive skills. Still, there has been enough change from the senior’s previous skill level to stand out and be worrisome.

Mild cognitive impairment may be progressive. Up to 40% of people with MCI will develop dementia within the following five years. In other situations, the degree of impairment does not progress or could even get better, so it’s worthwhile to know that a diagnosis of MCI will not automatically mean a future diagnosis of dementia.

What Should I Do if I Suspect a Family Member Has MCI?

First, get in touch with the person’s primary care physician for an assessment. This will consist of a review of existing medications, screening for health issues that may have similar symptoms, an interview with the individual and members of the family, and an office-based cognitive abilities assessment. If warranted, the senior will likely be referred to a specialist for further testing.

What Treatment Options Are Available for MCI?

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

  • Exercise. Several studies show encouraging results on the effects of exercise on MCI. Though one study found it to be specifically beneficial to incorporate resistance training, we know that other kinds of exercise are essential for an older person’s general health and mobility. Talk with a doctor for advice on which workouts are recommended, but in general, balance, aerobics, and flexibility exercises are important to include alongside resistance training.
  • Diet. The focus should be on foods that impact brain health, such as a Mediterranean diet referred to as MIND diet, which includes plenty of vegetables and fruits, 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.

Morning Glory Home Care, a trusted provider of home health care in Belleville, IL and the nearby areas, is here to assist older adults with mild cognitive impairment to continue to live independently in the homes they love, with the most appropriate level of support. Give us a call at 618-667-8400 for more information.