“Senior moments” are a normal part of aging. They happen to everyone. We just don’t process things as quickly as we did in younger years.
Some people develop significant memory and thinking problems. These people are eventually unable to live safely on their own. Typically, they have a stroke or develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
And some people function at a level in between. They can live independently and lead normal lives. But they just aren’t thinking as well as they used to. These people may have mild cognitive impairment (MCI). About 15%-20% of adults over age 65 have MCI.
Signs of MCI include greater than usual difficulty with
- remembering recent events or scheduled appointments
- following the thread of a conversation or movie
- making decisions or following instructions
- finding familiar locations
- making well-reasoned choices
People with MCI are at greater risk for dementia. Every year, 10%-15% of people with MCI will go on to develop dementia as compared with 1%-3% of the entire group of adults over age 65. Some people with MCI simply stay at this mild level of memory and thinking difficulty. Some even improve over time!
If you think your loved one may have MCI, schedule an appointment for a full examination. It may be MCI. Or the explanation could be as simple as a medication side effect or even sleep apnea or alcohol overuse. Follow up every six months to track changes.
If your relative has MCI, there is no treatment. Research shows, however, that strong circulation of blood and ongoing mental stimulation are very supportive of a healthy brain:
- Manage blood pressure and heart health.
- Increase physical activity.
- Increase social and mental activity. People who are socially engaged or who have a hobby tend to keep their mental functions longer. Passive activities, such as watching TV, aren’t as helpful.