You’ve noticed a change when holding a conversation with your aging parent. There are moments they seem to have lost the thread of your discussion and other times where words are not so easy for them to find. They’ve forgotten more than their fair share of appointments and seem overwhelmed when you start discussing schedules or attempt to make a decision together. Fear has you heading down the path of Alzheimer’s. Before you get too far down that road, make an appointment with your parent’s primary health care provider. They may just have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that lies between normal aging and dementia. MCI is believed to affect approximately 10 to 15 percent of Americans who are age 65 and older.
Causes of MCI
The good news: Half of those who are diagnosed with MCI never go on to develop a form of dementia such as Alzheimer’s, and there are several causes of MCI which are treatable. These include the side effects of medications, overuse of alcohol or drugs, as well as depression. Infections, nutritional deficiencies and thyroid problems are also possible contributors to this disease.
Your parent’s physician will most likely run several tests including neurological, physical, laboratory and memory tests. They will also ask you about your observations regarding your parent’s cognitive decline. Once a diagnosis is made, the course will become clearer.
How to Help
If there is nothing specific that can be accomplished, such as a change in medication, lifestyle or addressing nutritional deficiencies, there are other suggestions for helping a loved one slow down the progression of this disease. Mental stimulation as well as physical exercise has been shown to help support cognitive function as one ages.
In addition to daily activities such as crosswords, Sudoku, Scrabble, and other mentally stimulating challenges, reading and learning something new have both proven effective in slowing cognitive decline. Learning something new requires the development of new synapses and can be anything from a new language, musical instrument or form of art.
Physical exercise should entail 30 minutes of sustained activity for at least 5 days out of the week. Make it something your parent enjoys so they will keep at it. This may be walking, swimming, water aerobics, tai chi, yoga, biking, or a host of other activities—whatever keeps them engaged and on the move.
Those with high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol carry a higher risk of developing MCI and dementia. Help your parent keep their blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol ranges in check by implementing a good dietary plan. The Mediterranean diet has been proven to reduce the chance of developing dementia.
Help your parent accomplish the everyday activities by providing them with a memory book, similar to a day planner—something they can take with them and jot down appointments, to-do lists and various thoughts they have throughout the day. Make it easy for them at home by reducing clutter, making visible lists and placing everyday items within easy access. Check into local MCI support groups for both you and your parent. Knowing what others have gone through and the solutions that worked for them can ease fears and form lifelong friendships.
Home Care Provider
If your loved one eventually finds it difficult to perform some or all of the everyday activities of living, consider obtaining the services of a home care provider. They can prepare brain-healthy meals, join your parent in a walk or other exercise routine and assist with daily chores. In addition, they provide the camaraderie so important to seniors undergoing the myriad of changes that aging brings.
IF YOU OR AN AGING LOVED ONE ARE CONSIDERING IN-HOME CARE IN SUMMERLIN, NV, PLEASE CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT GOLDEN HEART SENIOR CARE. CALL TODAY 702-800-4616.