When a senior has mild cognitive impairment, it can be hard to tell unless you’re face-to-face.

Returning home for the holidays is a great opportunity to make new memories and reminisce together about holidays past. But it’s also when family members often see changes with elder loved ones – changes that could be too slight to detect during a phone call or FaceTime, but are glaringly evident in person. One such concern is if a senior has mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Although a little bit of forgetfulness affects us all as we grow older, MCI has some distinctive characteristics to watch for.

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

MCI denotes changes in memory skills and thinking that are impacting a person’s capacity to accomplish day to day activities that had once been easy, such as paying bills or making meals with no assistance. These changes are not severe enough to meet the criteria 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 former skill level to be noticeable and troublesome.

Mild cognitive impairment can be progressive. As many as 40% of those with MCI will develop dementia within the subsequent five years. In other instances, the level of impairment stays the same or could even improve. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to know that a diagnosis of MCI will not inevitably mean a future dementia diagnosis.

What Can I Do if I Think a Senior Has Mild Cognitive Impairment?

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

What Treatment Options Are Available for MCI?

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

  • Exercise. Several studies are showing promising results on the effects of exercise on MCI. Though one study revealed it to be particularly helpful to incorporate resistance training, we know that other types of exercise are crucial for an older person’s all-around health and mobility. Consult with the physician for suggestions about which exercises are recommended, but in general, balance, aerobics, and flexibility exercises are important to incorporate alongside resistance training.
  • Diet. The main focus should be on foods that affect brain health, in particular, a Mediterranean diet known as the MIND diet, which includes lot of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (such as 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, ought to be avoided.

Live Free Home Health Care, a provider of trusted Concord home care, is here to help older adults with mild cognitive impairment to continue to live independently in the homes they love, with just the right level of support and care. Give us a call at 603-217-0149 to learn more. For a full list of the areas where we provide in-home care services, visit our Service Area page.