As we age, it is common, and even normal, for us to lose some of our mental agility. However, it is important to know the difference between normal aging and more serious signs of cognitive deterioration. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a problem that faces many aging adults, yet is often overlooked as just another part of getting old. This is largely due to the fact that MCI’s effects are less noticeable than Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, MCI can still have an impact on the quality of life of your loved one and puts them at a higher risk of developing a more serious cognitive disorder down the road. Maybe your loved one has been diagnosed, but you’re unsure about what you can do to help them. You may be wondering exactly what MCI is, what it’s treatments are, and what steps you can take to ensure the continued health and safety of your aging loved one.
What is MCI?
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is defined by the Alzheimer’s Association as a condition which “causes a slight but noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills.” This condition causes cognitive changes. However, these changes are not serious enough to interfere with daily life, and therefore, these changes do not meet the diagnostic requirements for dementia. It is important to note that a person with MCI is at an increased risk for developing some form of dementia. However, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, some with MCI do not get worse and could even improve their condition.
There are two types of MCI.
- Amnestic MCI is classified as primarily affecting memory. A person with this type of MCI would begin to forget things like appointments, recent events, and phone numbers or addresses.
- Nonamnestic MCI is classified as primarily affecting thinking skills including the ability to make sound decisions, completing multi-step tasks, and visual perception.
Mild Cognitive Impairment is a clinical diagnosis determined after a full medical evaluation has been completed, although there are no standard tests or procedures for this diagnosis. The diagnosis would be based on the doctor’s professional judgement about the person’s symptoms and medical history.
It is not yet clear what the causes of MCI are, although it is believed to be caused by changes in the brain — similar to the early stages of dementia.
How can MCI be treated?
There are currently no medications approved by the FDA to treat MCI. However, if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with MCI or is exhibiting some or all of the symptoms, there are some positive steps that can be taken to improve the condition and the quality of life of the individual.
- Perform regular exercise to improve circulation and promote nourishment of the brain.
- Manage cardiovascular risk factors such as diet and lifestyle choices (alcohol intake, sleep schedule, stress levels, etc.).
- Participate in mentally and socially stimulating activities such as board games, puzzles, reading, and conversing with friends and family
What can I do?
Helping a loved one with MCI can be as simple as visiting with them and playing a game of cards, taking them out for a walk around the neighborhood, or driving them to a social outing with friends. You should also encourage your loved one to eat a heart-healthy diet that is low in fats and rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish).
If you believe that your loved one would benefit from these activities, but you or other family members aren’t able to assist them (due to work schedules or geographical constraints), you may want to consider employing a compassionate caregiver to assist them part or full-time. A home healthcare professional can provide help completing day-to-day chores around the house, assist with personal hygiene, transport your loved one to appointments or social engagements, or simply keep them company throughout the day.
At the David York Agency, we offer highly-personalized home health care services to assist you and your family with the care of an aging loved one. Our experienced healthcare professionals are highly-trained and capable of giving your loved one the care and attention they need to lead a happy and healthy life. Many of the families we serve come to see our providers as family members, as they quickly become integrated into the everyday lives of the household.
For more information on David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free consultation can help you decide what services might be best to help you and your loved ones. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn. For any additional questions about home health care options for your loved one, please contact us.