“Memory Matters” for ALL Ages LINK TO PROGRAM
You may have heard the words Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) before but not been sure what it actually means. Some of the clients I have seen in recent years had been given a diagnosis of MCI and were referred to me as a speech-language pathologist. What was most needed were strategies to help with recall of information and activities for cognitive stimulation to enhance skills related to focus and paying attention. Family education was another key component since understanding the changes and ways to support a loved can only enhance the day to day experiences and quality of life for all involved.
Some things to consider:
1. With Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) there are changes in memory beyond normal aging but not enough to cause difficulties with major lifestyle choices.
2. MCI is a risk factor for dementia but is not dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association states that 10 to 20 percent of those 65 years of age or older may have MCI. There are some people who will remain the same while others may get better. Others may eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Sometimes depression, pain, grief as well as poor lifestyle choices impact memory and may be contributing to the changes noted beyond normal aging.
3. Often anxiety is present and that is not uncommon when someone keeps questioning their increased memory lapses. There is a fear many people have that it could be the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease especially if there are older family members who have walked that journey in their family.
3. One of the best things you can do when concerns arise is to be proactive and research competent resources for information. Learn what you can but do not stop there. Discuss your concerns with a person who has training and experience in the areas of MCI, young onset and early stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Tips to consider:
1. Every person and situation is different and require an individualized plan to maximize a person’s strength while addressing their daily concerns. One of your resources is going to be a speech-language pathologist for that personalized plan for effective strategies that meet the person at their current level of functioning, taking into consideration their situation and needs as well as support system. One of the products I created is Walking the Path to Memory Fitness One Week at a Time. One of the attendees at a presentation I did at a senior center years ago continues to use this tool on a weekly basis to remind her of what she can do for herself. Another program is a 7 Day Memory Fitness Plan which offers a different focus each day, helping to establish more effective habits that may be impacting
2. Sometimes additional memory strategies are needed with MCI when tasks are more involved and complex. Handling planning for special occasions and travel may have been easy before but a person may notice it is more of a challenge. Maybe the person needs to not try to do it all on their own or turn some of the duties over to another person. Someone volunteering may need to shift to something they enjoy doing but less complex.
3. Poor nutrition, low fluid intake, lack of exercise, sleep and isolation may be contributing to that lack of sharpness. So could depression, anxiety, pain and depression. Addressing those concerns with your doctor or seeking the expertise of someone specializing in geriatrics may be the next advisable step to get a look at the bigger picture.
4. Look ahead if things seem to be gradually changing. This is the time to assess long term planning like where you are living, responsibilities you have, financial planning and any legal documents you might want to update or put in place. While it is impossible to predict what lies ahead, addressing those items are some of the valuable steps to do when you are sharp of mind and can express what matters to you.
This is something everyone should do, not just those with memory concerns or possible early stages of dementia. Too many people dread the thought of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and over and over I see families struggling with so many issues when the disease is present and progresses. In some cases, the challenges people face could have been avoided if preplanning was initiated when a person has good judgment and problem solving skills and their wishes could be honored.
TO DO THIS WEEK: Teach others what you have learned. It is a recommended brain game activity. So is looking up more information if it is appropriate to your situation. Check the links for further information and pass them along.
Michael J. Fox continues to be an inspiration in his journey with Parkinson’s disease.
“ I’d like people to realize any action is good action if it is proactive and there is a positive intent behind it.”