Cognitive-Impairment, Puzzle

What is Cognitive Impairment?  Definition:

Cognitive Impairment is a condition when a person experiences a noticeable decline in their ability to recall information, process new facts, make decisions, and perform familiar tasks. Unlike a sudden illness, it does not show up with obvious symptoms. It is a more gradual change that affects daily life. 

Cognitive Impairment lies on the spectrum between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging, and the serious long-term decline associated with conditions like Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. 

Symptoms

Symptoms of Cognitive Impairment are varied and range from mild, to moderate, to severe. 

Here are a few examples of changes in thinking and behaviors to note:

  • Frequently forgets things like appointments or social engagements
  • Loses their train of thought while speaking
  • Feels overwhelmed or anxious in making everyday decisions that they usually made with ease
  • Difficulty concentrating on a task
  • Difficulty planning steps to accomplish a task or following multi-step instructions 
  • Difficulty performing daily tasks that require navigating familiar environments, e.g.. Driving to the grocery store or going for a walk
  • Impulsive behaviours
  • Showing poor judgement in personal and professional decisions
  • Side effects of Cognitive Impairment include depression, anxiety, aggression, and irritability 

Testing for Cognitive Impairment

It’s easy to overlook symptoms of Cognitive Impairment as generalized signs of aging. If you notice your loved one consistently exhibiting signs or feel that their normal cognitive state is deteriorating, there are a few simple options for testing. 

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) Testing

There is no specific test to diagnose MCI. Doctors look at your loved one’s mental health, physical health, medical history, neurological exams, and bloodwork to diagnose Mild Cognitive Impairment or MCI. 

This includes the following:

  • Using medical history and behaviour patterns to confirm a decline in mental function
  • Confirmed instances of continued difficulty remembering, following instructions, and making decisions
  • Outpatient testing in your doctor’s office with brief tests that utilize simple questions to assess:
    • Six Item Cognitive Impairment Test (6CIT)
    • Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)
    • Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)
  • Sample questions in this type of testing includes things like:
    • Counting backwards from 20
    • State the months of year in reverse order
    • Memorize a new address
    • Follow written instructions
    • Name today’s date 
  • Neurological testing to assess balance, muscular rigidity, reflexes, tremors, and hand-eye coordination
  • Bloodwork 
    • Lab tests can determine if there are any deficiencies in the body that are causing memory problems
  • Family history of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or Parkinson’s
    • These can be ruled out definitively to confirm that the condition is Mild Cognitive Impairment. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or Parkinson’s will require different types of care and treatment plans

Diagnosis

Your loved-one’s diagnosis with Mild Cognitive Impairment can be challenging to understand and plan around. On the outside they might seem mostly fine. They can live independently and maintain their usual lifestyle. However, there will be noticeable small changes that are an indication of their changing cognitive state. 

The testing will determine the stage of their cognitive impairment and based on this outcome; you will be able to plan accordingly for your loved one’s care. 

Stages of Progression

Like any deteriorating condition, the symptoms of Cognitive Impairment can worsen over time without timely intervention and care. 

There are currently no medications specifically available to help only for MCI. As a result, most patients’ side effects like depression, anxiety, irritability, high blood pressure are managed with targeted medications under their physician’s care. Diet and lifestyle choices are shown to make an impact at slowing down the rate of Cognitive Impairment with healthy choices like daily physical activity, a low-fat diet, daily mental stimulation through social activities and mental exercises to help improve memory function. 

Caregiver Planning

Planning for care can feel tricky in the early stages of Cognitive Impairment. Your instinct is to provide or arrange for regular caregiving. You want to feel reassured that your loved one is not vulnerable as they navigate their condition. It’s a fine line to ensure their well-being while supporting their independence. The good news is that you do not have to find a solution on your own. Experienced companies like Care Mountain have been providing care solutions across the DFW Metroplex for over 17 years and can help you find a personalized solution for your loved one with Cognitive Impairment.  

  • How to Provide Support in the Home
    • In-home support by live-in caregivers can help with the following:
      • Light housekeeping 
      • Preparing and providing healthy, diet-specific meals
      • Overseeing medication schedules
      • Organizing and coordinating any medical appointments
      • Therapeutic support to deal with feelings of anxiety or being overwhelmed 
      • Companionship and help with social activities to improve mental function
  • Helping Maintain Independence
    • For a more independent family member, another option is hourly caregiving which provides all the care of in-home support but for a few hours a day as needed. This way, you can balance your loved-one’s sense of independence with their safety. They can drive themselves to the grocery store or go for a walk while you are reassured that a caregiver is close by.  

Care Mountain 

Cognitive Impairment is often characterized by a loss in memory. It can be  very concerning when your parent or a loved senior is unaware of their declining mental function and you are put in a position to navigate how to help them. As their family member or caregiver, it is not an easy topic to bring up when they think they are doing just fine. 

Working with a doctor and going through the steps for testing as outlined above should help bring you clarity in a difficult situation. It’s important to note and understand these changes and record them for confirmation for both your loved one and their doctor. 

At Care Mountain, our tenure in the field of caregiving ensures that we work with a variety of scenarios to support your loved one. Our caregivers are hired based on their experience. They also undergo a thorough interview process and background check. We provide support across the Dallas and Ft. Worth area. We provide care in Frisco, Plano, McKinney, Allen, North Dallas, Highland Park, Preston Hollow, Southlake, Arlington, and many more cities. We know that care is not a one-size fits all solution. We focus on specialized care, that is flexible, affordable and works for your family. 

Contact us, when you’re ready, to see how we can provide care to help you and your loved ones. 

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