happy caregiver shoppig with senior lady

Coming home for the holidays is a wonderful time to make new memories and reminisce together about holidays past.  It is also an occasion when family members commonly observe changes with older loved ones – changes that could be too minor to detect in the course of a phone call or FaceTime, but become glaringly apparent in person. One such concern is mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Though a bit of forgetfulness impacts us all as we grow older, MCI has many distinctive characteristics to watch for. Use these tips for recognizing MCI in a senior loved one.

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

MCI denotes changes in thinking and memory skills that are impacting a person’s ability to complete everyday activities that had once been easy, such as paying bills or making meals with no assistance. These changes are not significant enough to meet the requirements for a dementia diagnosis, which specifies that independent living is compromised by the decline in cognitive skills. Nevertheless, there has been enough change from the person’s past skill level to be noticeable and troublesome.

Mild cognitive impairment may be progressive. As many as 40% of those with MCI will develop dementia over the course of the following 5 years. In other situations, the level of impairment does not progress or could even get better, so it’s important to be aware that a diagnosis of MCI is not going to inevitably mean a future dementia diagnosis.

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

Step one would be to get in touch with the individual’s primary care physician for an evaluation. This may include a review of existing medications, testing for health problems that may have similar symptoms, an interview with the senior and family members, and an office-based cognitive abilities assessment. If warranted, the person will then 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 progression of the person’s cognitive impairment. Additionally, there are several changes in lifestyle that can be helpful, including:

  • Exercising. Many studies are showing promising results on the effects of exercise on MCI. Though one study found it to be particularly beneficial to incorporate resistance training, we know that other styles of exercise are essential for an older person’s all-around health and mobility. Talk to a doctor for suggestions about which exercises are recommended, but in general, aerobics, flexibility, and balance exercises are worthwhile to incorporate alongside resistance training.
  • Diet. The focus should be on foods that influence brain health, especially a Mediterranean diet known as the MIND diet, which includes a large amount of vegetables and fruits, healthy fats (like those found in 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.

Want more information about recognizing MCI in seniors and how home care services can help? At-Home Care Company, a provider of home and memory care in Des Moines, IA and the surrounding areas, is here to help older adults with mild cognitive impairment to continue to live safely and happily at home, with the most appropriate level of support. Contact us at 515-292-2650 to find out more.