It’s important to understand the warning signs of mild cognitive impairment, the link between it and dementia, and what to do if your loved one’s daily activities start to become impaired by cognitive decline.
It can be concerning to talk with your loved one and hear them repeat the same story they just told you yesterday over the phone. Or to hear them slip up and call you by the wrong name. Forgetfulness can be natural for the aging brain, but when does forgetfulness turn into something more concerning?
Forgetting small details and words here and there is normal for aging people. Luckily, mild cognitive impairment doesn’t strongly affect a person’s daily life. However, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of mild cognitive impairment so you can know when it becomes more serious.
What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is the subtle, but worrying decline in an aging person’s cognitive abilities that are beyond the normal effects of aging. MCI affects a person’s memory, language, judgment, and thinking.
Mild Cognitive Impairment is considered a phase between a normal aging brain and a pathway to developing more serious cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This is why it’s important to recognize it before it can turn into something more progressive.
People living with MCI are not significantly affected on a day-to-day level, however some people with MCI will progressively lose more intellectual abilities and can eventually develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Occasional forgetfulness alone isn’t enough to diagnose MCI. With MCI more than just memory is affected. Your loved one’s vocabulary, judgment, and thinking are also affected.
Here are some warning signs to watch for that may indicate your loved one is experiencing MCI:
- Impatience and anger
- Forgetting birthdays (especially if they’ve never forgotten them before)
- Missing appointments
- Poor motor function
- Impaired judgment
- Forgetting to pay bills
- Constantly trying to search for the right words to use
- Unfocused, sporadic conversations
What Are the Causes of Mild Cognitive Impairment?
It is not completely understood what causes MCI, however people are more likely to develop MCI if they are already experiencing the following symptoms.
Mental Health Issues
People who suffer from anxiety, depression, and increased stress are more likely to develop cognitive impairment.
People who experience traumatic head injuries are much more likely to experience cognitive dysfunction later in life. Other issues such as diabetes, obesity, sleep disorders, and high blood pressure seem to be indicators that increase the likelihood for experiencing MCI.
People who have a history of alcohol and drug abuse, smokers, and those who don’t engage in regular physical exercise or routine social engagement are also more likely to develop MCI later in life.
How to Know Medication Isn’t Causing Cognitive Dysfunction
Sometimes medications can cause MCI, and the adverse effects are reversed when the medication is no longer used.
It’s important for people experiencing MCI to examine when their symptoms began and to see if a new medication is creating the cognitive problems.
Here’s a list of medications that can cause cognitive impairment:
- Anti-anxiety drugs
- Cholesterol lowering drugs
- Anti-seizure drugs
- Narcotics and opioids
- Incontinence drugs
- Sleeping drugs
How to Know if MCI is Turning Into Something More Serious
Dementia is a far more severe form of cognitive impairment than MCI. Dementia isn’t a specific disease, but an umbrella term used to describe many severe forms of cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease.
People living with MCI can still perform activities of daily life normally, however people with dementia will begin to need more assistance.
Depending on what stage of dementia they are in, people may struggle to perform these tasks independently:
- Bathing and grooming
- Going to the bathroom
- Getting dressed
- Moving around the house
- Communicating by phone or computer
Approximately 15% to 20% of people 65 or older experience MCI. Not everyone who experiences MCI will develop dementia, and some people will remain stable throughout their lifetime.
The link between MCI turning into dementia lies in the changes that occur in the brain, mainly buildups of microscopic proteins, called plaques, tangles, and Lewy bodies. Minor strokes, which reduce blood flow to the brain, can also affect cognitive function.
If your loved one’s daily activities become increasingly more difficult to perform, even with assistance, then it may be time for them to get more advanced care.
How Kensington Place Can Help With Mild Cognitive Impairment
It’s been shown that physical exercise, eating a healthy diet, reducing stress and being part of a social group all greatly benefit the mind. At Kensington Place, our state-of-the art facilities offer all the amenities necessary to reach those goals.
Our caring and professional trained staff are here 24/7 to assist your loved ones, to help them with their nutrition, provide a safe environment for exercising, and foster a positive atmosphere for friendly social interactions.
We pride ourselves on our customized memory care program and treating your loved one as our own.
If you feel that you would like more help in understanding MCI and how we can help your loved one, please reach out. We would love to learn more about your loved one and how we can offer the best care.