NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — More than six million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and an estimated eleven million family, friends, and unpaid caregivers are caring for them. Knowing the signs of early dementia, also known as mild cognitive impairment, or MCJ, is critical so patients and their families can get support as soon possible. Here are steps families can take.
Sandy Vincent never imagined that she’d reach retirement age, and then become a caregiver again for her 96-year-old mother, Margaret.
Vincent says, “She forgets. She’ll call me sandy. Other times, I’m Irene, who was her cousin. Sometimes she’ll say to me, ‘how’s your mother?’”
Experts say the top three signs of MCJ, are memory loss, especially new information, difficulty performing daily tasks, and losing language skills.
Doctor Manisha Parulekar is a geriatric medicine specialist. As symptoms of MCJ begin to appear, she recommends that families help loved ones write down their routines.
Manisha Parulekar, MD, Geriatrician, Hackensack University Medical Center, told us, “For some reason, the visual pathway seems to be staying longer with the patients.”
Use post-it notes in a prominent place.
Dr. Parulekar says, “They’re going in the bathroom, brush your teeth, breaking it down in simple steps and putting it on the post it so that they understand it.”
If sentences become stilted, determine which words might be troublesome. List others they can use and practice. Losing language skills can lead to depression.
Dr. Parulekar explains, “They don’t remember the words and then they stop talking to people, then they start isolating themselves. And then it’s sort of a downhill course.”
Vincent says, “There are times where, you know, she’ll say she’ll complete sentences and everything and make sense. And then there are other times that I guess she can’t find the words.”
Helping families dealing with loved ones in the early stages of dementia.
Research suggests that music may help patients with dementia. Musical memories are often preserved because key brain areas linked to music are relatively undamaged by the disease. Until recently, Sandy’s mother would sing along to her favorite songs from the 1940’s which would allow her to practice her language skills.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Bob Walko, Editor, and Kirk Manson, Videographer.
MILD COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT: KNOW THE SIGNS
BACKGROUND: Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) causes cognitive changes that are serious enough to be noticed by the person affected but do not affect the individual’s ability to carry out everyday activities. Family members and friends are able to notice these changes as well. MCI is considered an early stage of memory loss or other cognitive ability loss such as language or visual/spatial perception. It can develop for many reasons, and individuals living with MCI may go on to develop dementia. In some individuals, MCI reverts to normal cognition or remains stable. In other cases, such as when a medication causes cognitive impairment, MCI is mistakenly diagnosed. Individuals living with MCI who have an abnormal brain positron emission tomography (PET) scan or spinal fluid test for amyloid beta protein, which is the protein in amyloid plaques (one of the two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s), are considered to have a diagnosis of MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease.
MCI PREVENTION: Symptoms of MCI only appear after years and perhaps decades of damaging changes have accumulated in the brain. “The footprint of these diseases may begin in early adulthood or even late adolescence,” says Robert S. Wilson, PhD, a professor of neurological sciences and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center and a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “Almost everyone now believes that the fewer cognitive symptoms you have, and the less the pathologies have progressed, the greater chance of intervention being effective.” For that reason, many researchers are now focusing on prevention rather than treatment. A report from the National Institute on Aging and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found support for three interventions that may prevent or slow the development of cognitive decline and dementia: increased physical activity; controlling high blood pressure; and cognitive training interventions that aim to enhance problem-solving, memory, and speed of processing.
DIGITAL THERAPEUTICS FOR MCI: Digital health tools to manage MCI is a promising new therapeutic direction for a very complex condition. Due to the pandemic, research and development of digital health tools used in patient’s homes to treat acute illness and/or manage chronic conditions has drastically accelerated. Two categories that have experienced rapid growth are digital therapeutics, which are prescribed alone or in tandem with pharmaceutical therapy, and virtual care solutions such as remote patient monitoring tools. Because MCI is a challenging chronic condition to manage for providers and caregivers, digital health companies are developing new technology solutions that can be used at home to stimulate brain activity with the goal of slowing progression of the disease. By promoting engagement and delivering an exciting experience, the patient will continue to use digital tools as prescribed and experience improved health outcomes, whether it’s through virtual care and remote patient monitoring or prescription digital therapy.
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