Mild Cognitive Impairment: What You Need To Know

Here on the Bridgeway Senior Living blog, we’ve written a lot about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Given that 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s disease (source), it’s important to raise awareness about this progressive disease. November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, so this month we will devote extra time to this topic.

In the past we’ve discussed specific aspects of the disease, such as the benefit of memory care, activities for seniors with Alzheimer’s, and risk factors of dementia. Today we’re going to talk about a milder, and extremely common, form of dementia, called mild cognitive impairment.

What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Many seniors want to know: Is it normal to forget where you left your car keys, or the name of that restaurant you ate at a few nights ago? The simple answer is yes. If you retrace your steps and find your keys, that’s great! If you can describe the restaurant or its location, that’s even better!

That means you had a normal, temporary, memory lapse, likely due to tiredness or distraction. To read more about when forgetfulness is normal and when its not, read our article Forgetfulness: When to Worry.

When you constantly forget important things, or find yourself making silly mistakes often, you may have mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is a very common, age-related form of dementia that doesn’t seriously interfere with your ability to care for yourself. This form of dementia can, and often does, lead to other brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the onset of progressive dementia. It can be brought on by certain medications or illnesses, in which case, you might be mistakenly diagnosed with early dementia.

There are two forms of MCI, one that primarily affects memory, and the other that affects thinking skills. Forgetful symptoms include forgetting important information such as appointments, conversations, or recent events. Critical thinking symptoms include having difficulty with judging time or sequenced tasks or displaying poor judgment.

Treatment of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Like all forms of dementia, there are no treatments available for MCI. Even medications currently approved for Alzheimer’s disease have not been shown to help MCI. That being said, the Alzheimer’s Association does recommend some ways to cope with MCI:

  • Exercise on a regular basis to send more oxygen to your brain. (Side benefits are strengthening the heart, blood vessels, and lungs.)
  • Maintain your cardiovascular health by achieving and maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels..
  • Stay socially and mentally active to decrease isolation and depression.
  • Get evaluated by your doctor every few months to make sure your impairment is not worsening and becoming dementia.

MCI shouldn’t stop you from leading the best life you can. You can work with your impairments by using calendars and planners to keep track of appointments and bills. Use checklists or automated reminders to help you remember all routine tasks that have to be done, or to keep track of your medications.

If you feel you can’t live alone safely, but you still want to retain your independence, consider a continuing care community like Bridgeway Senior Living. There you can still live the independent life you love, while someone else takes care of mowing your lawn or paying your bills.

Contact us to learn more.