How to Help Your Elderly Parent Diagnosed with Early-Stage Memory Loss
How to Help Your Elderly Parent Diagnosed with Early-Stage Memory Loss

Has your parent recently been given an official diagnosis of early-stage memory loss, often referred to as mild cognitive impairment (MCI)? It can be a scary diagnosis, leaving them and you with plenty of questions. What does it mean for their immediate care and health? What does it mean for the future? Will it progress and get worse? Is there treatment available? While there is no doubt that you are feeling stresses and even a little worried about the diagnosis, it’s important for you to stay positive and focused on your parent’s well-being.

Here we will take a look at the different ways you can help your elderly parent who has just been diagnosed with early-stage memory loss and why it doesn’t have to be a scary time in their life.

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

To better understand what your parent is going through and what it means for their everyday life, and the future, it’s important to understand what MCI is. As the name implies, MCI is a mild form of memory and/or cognitive ability loss. Because it is so early stage, it tends to be mild and may even be hard to spot at first. The red flags can be fleeting and not very pronounced. Chances are that your parent is still able to go about their daily life without too much trouble and interruption. They may just seem a bit forgetful at times.

While people are quick to assume that MCI will most definitely lead to Alzheimer’s or dementia, that’s not always the case. One doesn’t automatically equate to the other. Your parent may never advance past MCI and the mild inconveniences it causes.

Common Treatments for MCI

As for the common treatments for MCI, they will differ depending on how mild the condition is, how much it is impacting their life, their health and other determining factors. There are no specific medications or treatments meant for MCI; however, there are lifestyle changes that they can make. There has also been interest in home remedies and supplements that may be able to make a positive difference.

Lifestyle changes are usually a great place to start, and they can include such things as:

  • Memory training exercises, which can prevent MCI from getting worse and may even be able to reverse it
  • Exercising regularly to ensure you have excellent heart health (this should include resistance, aerobic, flexibility and balance exercises)
  • Doing activities that require thinking skills and cognitive skills, which includes word searches, crossword puzzles, reading, playing video games, using the computer and so forth
  • Making sure you’re eating a healthy well-balanced diet
  • Including Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet
  • Socializing with others regularly

As for the home remedies and supplements, these aren’t guaranteed to offer results but some people may find they help. You can always speak to your parent’s doctor and get their input. Common supplements that are used include ginkgo, vitamin E and vitamin B.

What If Their MCI Gets Worse or Has Them Feeling Uncomfortable on Their Own?

A big issue for elderly parents living on their own is whether or not their MCI is worrisome enough that they shouldn’t be living on their own. Forgetfulness doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if they are forgetting to do important things, suddenly their health and well-being can be at risk. This is something you want to speak openly with them about – it should not be a secret. They need to be involved in health decisions and also understand where their concerns are stemming from.

This may be the right time to bring up the idea of moving to an assisted living facility. Many facilities offer services meant for those with early-stage memory loss, making sure they are well-cared for and safe. At the same time, they can continue their sense of independence, build a new network of friends within the facility and enjoy a new stage in life. You can check out options like this Calabasas nursing home.

For facilities that offer MCI specific programs, they focus on helping the resident to improve their thinking, memory and cognitive skills. It’s a targeted approach they may not get if they are to remain in their own home.

What Is the Prognosis Moving Forward?

As for what the MCI diagnosis means for their future, doctors tend to recommend that the patient is re-evaluated approximately every six months. They will be looking for signs of improvement or worsening so that they can make suggestions and adjustments accordingly. It will also help to catch other warning signs, such as progression to Alzheimer’s or dementia.

What About the Emotional Toll MCI Can Take?

While that covers it from a clinical and lifestyle changes standpoint, it doesn’t address the other issue, which is just as important. Getting a diagnosis of MCI can be extremely stressful, upsetting and scary for a senior. In other words, it can take a real emotional toll. So, how can you help your parent to cope with their emotions?

The first thing is to encourage them to communicate their feelings. You don’t want them bottling up their emotions; they need to let it out – the good and the bad. They can vent to you and/or other family members and friends. They may even want to speak to a therapist if they find the diagnosis especially upsetting. Speak honestly with them about what this means for their current situation and the future situation. It may be helpful to have that conversation with the doctor, as they can offer more insight.

You also want to check in on their mental health regularly. Even if they seem to be taking the diagnosis well at the moment, it doesn’t mean it won’t hit them later on.

All of these tips will ensure you are there to help your parent through their MCI diagnosis, making sure they get all the assistance needed and potentially helping them to improve and reverse the effects.