What’s Mild Cognitive Impairment?
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a condition that involves cognitive changes that don’t interfere significantly with daily functioning, but can still be frustrating.
In fact, the Alzheimer’s association website says that “Mild cognitive impairment causes cognitive changes that are serious enough to be noticed by the person affected and by family members and friends, but do not affect the individual’s ability to carry out everyday activities. MCI can develop for multiple reasons, and individuals living with MCI may go on to develop dementia; others will not”.
The National Institute of Aging says that “There’s no single cause of MCI. The risk of developing MCI increases as someone gets older. Conditions such as diabetes, depression, and stroke may increase a person’s risk for MCI”.
It goes on to say “Signs of MCI may include losing things often, forgetting to go to events or appointments, or having more trouble coming up with words than other people of the same age. Movement difficulties and problems with the sense of smell have also been linked to MCI”.
Someone with MCI may experience difficulties with thinking, language, and decision-making. If you or someone you love is experiencing cognitive changes, it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider for guidance.
MCI is often considered an intermediate stage between normal cognitive changes of aging and more severe cognitive decline like Alzheimer’s disease.
Receiving an unfortunate diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment can be challenging, especially when it affects someone you deeply care about, such as a spouse.
As a caring person, you may feel compelled to find a solution and take it upon yourself to research about the condition.
However, it’s important to understand that your loved one may not be receptive to making changes or adapting to a new and different lifestyle.
They may prefer to remain in their comfort zone, even when it’s not beneficial for their overall well-being, simply because their current lifestyle brings them happiness.
One aspect that can contribute to your own frustration, especially after all your research, is witnessing behaviors you may not necessarily agree with.
You may attempt to take control, believing it’s for their own benefit.
There might be a strong desire to encourage activities that promote brain health and potentially prevent further progression.
However, you may observe your loved one spending hours playing video games or engaging in negative content on television or online. Maybe they consume an abundance of processed foods or resist socializing or exploring new activities.
While your loved ones activities may seem unhelpful for their condition, they might be serving as coping mechanisms.
Even though we might not understand why they continue to do these things, it may provide them a sense of control and even though we cannot change the behaviors, recognizing their possible benefits may create an environment that helps them navigate the MCI experience more comfortably.
If you’re serving as a care partner, here are a few suggestions that may help:
🧠 Encourage daily habits and routines that promote structure, and provide a sense of stability. These include set wakeup and bed times, and meal times.
🌸 If your loved one likes to concentrate on home projects, let them! You can do your best not to interrupt or distract them, so they can focus.
🧠 Assemble nutritious meals that create blood flow to the brain, to ensure proper nutrition for both of you. These types of foods include blueberries, leafy greens, beets, and walnuts.
🌸 Keep your house clutter free and put things back where they belong. This helps because it reduces confusion and makes it easier to find things.
🧠 Provide written notes and simplified instructions and leave them in a prominent location. This will reduce potential confusion.
🌸 Make sure activities, appointments and special occasions immediately are on both of your calendars.
🧠 Accompany your loved one to medical appointments, ask questions, and take notes. You can even record the conversation on your watch or phone, so you can listen later.
🌸 Ensure your loved one takes prescribed medications at the correct times by setting reminders on the calendar or phone.
🧠 If socializing is overwhelming, limit engagements to a couple of hours in order to prevent overwhelm or flooding.
🌸 To keep your home organized, clean, and ensure everything is turned off when you leave for an extended period, it’s helpful to create a checklist, that serves as a reminder of tasks needing to be completed before your departure. This helps you maintain a well-managed and secure home environment.
🧠 Suggest coordination activities such as ping pong or pickle ball. You might also suggest dance classes, learning a new language, or learning a new skill. All of these things increase blood flow to the brain.
🌸 You may also create a list of your loved ones strengths and all the things your loved one CAN still do, instead o focusing on things they can’t.
While you can do everything you can to make your loved ones life easier, being with someone who’s experiencing memory issues can be challenging, overwhelming, frustrating, and lonely.
It can be unsettling and worrisome when our loved one struggles to recall recent conversations, repeats statements, asks the same question multiple times, makes up answers to fill in the blanks for short term memory loss, or hyper focuses on one thing.
In challenging moments like this, it’s natural to react negatively, including instances where we may unintentionally shame our loved ones, This can lead to feelings of guilt, because it’s our loved ones who are experiencing memory loss, not us.
However, it’s important to remember that we are human, and there are limits to our patience.
Self-Care is Crucial!
Here are some helpful coping strategies for you to practice your own self-care:
💖 Research and educate yourself on the subject of MCI, its symptoms, and challenges. This can foster empathy and patience.
💗 Attend in person or online support groups with others who are going through similar experiences, or seek therapy or coaching for coping strategies.
💖 Realize that occasional negative reactions are normal, and not a reflection, of your love or commitment to your loved one.
💗 Find solace, writing in a daily journal or practice mindfulness or meditation.
💖 Make a point to visit with family and friends. You can also proactively join meetup groups, take classes, participate in new experiences, and learn new things. This is a great way to meet and engage with other like-minded people.
💗 Make it a priority to establish your own daily self-care and wellness routine, regardless of the circumstances.
💖 Before going to bed, journal or do a brain dump by jotting down your thoughts and worries on paper. This helps clear the mind and promotes a restful night’s sleep.
💗 Maintain a clutter-free calendar by adding activities that genuinely interest you, and politely declining those that hold no appeal.
💖 Read or listen to positive audio books, and podcasts.
We can actually use our loved one’s memory issues as motivation to plunge forward into our own self-care and healing. This is a golden opportunity to do a deep dive into how we can better align with our own values.
We can stop using our loved one’s issues as an excuse for not creating our own personal growth, and start taking action.
Yes the situation can be frustrating, but when we create time for ourselves doing what we love, we will be happier, and show up stronger for our loved ones.
It is crucial to practice patience with yourself while navigating the challenges of supporting someone with Mild Cognitive Impairment.
Prioritizing your own self-care and taking steps to maintain your own brain health can benefit both you, and the person you’re assisting.
Establishing boundaries when caring for a loved one on their MCI journey is an excellent form of self-care, as it helps prevent burnout and ensures you can maintain your well-being while providing the support your loved one needs.
By implementing coping strategies, you can work towards maintaining a positive and compassionate mindset as you navigate the challenges of caring for a loved one with MCI.
If you or a loved one is having memory issues, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider for further steps.
I came across a useful online assessment called the Quick Dementia Rating System that can provide an evaluation of potential cognitive issues or mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
You can print and complete the test, and then share the results with your healthcare provider.
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TOPIC: What’s Mild Cognitive Impairment?
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