You may have been placed in the role of family caregiver due to a sudden injury, surgery, or a chronic disease that has left your parent unable to perform the everyday activities of living. You spend more time with them than anybody else on the caregiving team. And you’ve noticed changes. You find them forgetting what they were going to do as they walk into a room. They are having increasing difficulty following the thread of your conversations. They seem to be confused in familiar surroundings. Your first thought turns to dementia—specifically, Alzheimer’s. Their physician, however, believes it is Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). You breathe a sigh of relief while at the same time wondering just what that means. Here, then, are the facts.
MCI is a condition in which cognitive skills are diminished, but not so sufficiently altered that the person can no longer care for themselves, as occurs in forms of dementia. Studies suggest that as many as 15 to 20 percent of individuals over the age of 64 may have MCI. For those that do, some will go on to develop a form of dementia such as Alzheimer’s, others will remain stable, and still others will improve. An article in the Mayo Clinic says it best: “Hope for the best but plan for the worst.”
While some individuals with MCI have the plaques and tangles in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s, many do not. In these cases, memory loss and behavioral changes may be due to medications, malnutrition, infections, thyroid imbalances, depression, and drug or alcohol abuse. As your parent’s medical advocate, ask their caregiving team what they feel the underlying cause is. An unknown cause makes it difficult to determine a treatment.
One study determined that walking five to six miles per week not only helped retain cognitive abilities, but also slowed down the progression of MCI. Help your parent remain active by accompanying them on walks or joining them in exercise classes. A loved one that is usually outgoing may exhibit signs of withdrawal due to increasing insecurities when in public and conversing with more than one person at a time. If it is difficult to add this to your already busy daily schedule, consider obtaining the services of an elder care provider who can join your parent or take over some of the daily chores so that you and your parent have time to exercise together.
Keep your parent’s brain active as well. This could entail getting out jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, or Sudoku. Check out one of the many art or music classes that are often offered at the local senior community centers. These are geared with seniors in mind and offer the opportunity for your parent to meet others of like mind. Along the same lines, joining a support group for those facing MCI and for those that care for them can be good for both of you. The emotional support can be just as, if not more, valuable as the wealth of information they provide.
In order to live a balanced life and go the distance with your parent, you will need to care for yourself just as you care for them. An elder care provider can assist your parent a few days a week, providing you with the time you require to recharge and renew.
If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring elder care in Clark, NJ, call the caring staff at Helping Hands Home Care today at 908-418-4299. Providing Home Care Services in all of Northern and Central NJ, including Clark, Westfield, Cranford, Scotch Plains, Rahway, Linden, Summit, Edison, Elizabeth, Mountainside and the surrounding areas.
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