Health Headlines: Cognitive impairment

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Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 7:16 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - 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 MCI, is critical so patients and their families can get support as soon as possible.

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 MCI are memory loss, especially with new information, difficulty performing daily tasks and losing language skills.

Dr. Manisha Parulekar is a geriatric medicine specialist who says as symptoms of MCI begin to appear, families should help loved ones write down their routines.

“For some reason, the visual pathway seems to be staying longer with the patients,” says Dr. Parulekar.

You can use post-it notes and put them in a prominent place.

“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.,” explains Dr. Parulekar.

If sentences become stilted, determine which words might be troublesome. List others they can use and practice. Losing language skills can also 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.”

Research suggests that music may help patients with dementia. Musical memories are often preserved because key brain areas are 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.

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