happy caregiver shoppig with senior lady

Returning home for the holidays is a wonderful time to think back on holidays past and make some new memories. But, it’s also an occasion when family members may see changes to senior loved ones – changes that could be too minor to detect on a phone call or FaceTime, but are glaringly apparent in person. One of these concerns is mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Although a touch of forgetfulness affects all of us as we get older, MCI has many distinctive characteristics to watch for. Use the following tips to help with identifying cognitive impairment during your holiday visits this season.

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

MCI denotes alterations in memory skills and thinking that impact a person’s ability to perform daily tasks that were once easy, such as paying bills or making meals without assistance. These changes are not significant enough to meet the requirements for a diagnosis of dementia, which specifies that living independently is compromised because of the decline in cognitive skills. Still, there has been enough change from the senior’s past skill level to be noticeable and troublesome.

Mild cognitive impairment may be progressive. Approximately 40% of those with MCI will develop dementia over the course of the subsequent five years. In other situations, the level of impairment stays the same or may even get better, so it’s worthwhile to know that a diagnosis of MCI does not inevitably mean a future dementia diagnosis.

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

The first step is to get in touch with the individual’s primary care physician for an evaluation. This will consist of a review of existing medications, screening for health conditions that may have similar symptoms, an interview with the person and family members, and an assessment of cognitive abilities. If required, the person will be referred to a specialist for more testing.

Are There Treatment Options Available for MCI?

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

  • Exercise. Several studies are showing promising results on the effects of exercise on MCI. Though one study found it to be especially beneficial to include resistance training, we know that other types of exercise are very important for an older person’s all-around health and mobility. Consult with the doctor for advice on which exercises are recommended, but in general, balance, aerobics, and flexibility exercises are important to include along with resistance training.
  • Eating Habits. The main objective should be to focus on foods that affect brain health, like a Mediterranean diet known as the MIND diet, which includes large amounts of vegetables and fruit, healthy fats (like those found in nuts and avocados), legumes, fish, and beans. Foods that have added sugar or trans fats, as well as meats and packaged or fast foods, should be avoided.

Want more information about identifying cognitive impairment in senior loved ones? We can help. Anthem Home Care, an award-winning provider of Portland respite care, is here to assist older adults with mild cognitive impairment to continue to live independently at home, with the most appropriate level of support and care. Call us today at 361-643-2323 for more information. For a full list of the communities where we offer in-home care services, visit our Service Area page.