Continuing to Push Your Skills with Mild Cognitive Impairment

There’s a difference between early onset dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) Dementia is defined by two or more areas of cognitive decline. Early dementia happens before the age of 60.

When an individual has mild cognitive impairment, he has only one symptom of dementia – memory difficulties. Individual with mild cognitive impairment are capable of functional activities such as work, social skills, and skill such as driving and maintaining the home.  They can reason and have good judgment. 

Only 10 to 12 percent of individuals with MCI will progress to dementia. If you notice these changes in yourself or a family member, it is best to see a dementia team headed by a knowledgeable physician. The team working together is best able to conduct a comprehensive assessment and intervention. Early intervention results in the best quality of life for the longest time.

The role of the speech language pathologist on the team is to more deeply assess cognitive and communication skills such as attention, short term/working memory, long term memory, logic and reasoning, sentence structure, comprehension, reading and writing, and naming objects and people.

Language skills, memory, and logic and reasoning are three keys to keeping the mind strong for anyone.  Here are some simple things you can do to help keep these areas thriving:

Language skills can be developed.  Play with anagrams. Start with a multi-syllabic word or short phrase and move around the letters to make as many new words as you can. The more often you try it, the quicker you will be able to do this task.

Strategies that may help are to write down what comes to mind first. Then use each vowel to think of new words. Then take the consonants in order.  Remember to use blends as well follow each blend by one of the available vowels.

Here’s an example of words we can find in "The Brain Trainer":
Rain, it, art, then,
Ran, brat, that, than,
I, ban, near, net,
Bran, tree, neat, an,
Train, rat, rate, he,
Ain’t, their, there,
Near, ear, tear, tea,
In, brine, rib, three,
At, ant, inn, hair,
Air, rare, bear, bare,
Tire, bath, bathe,
Rant, inner, tribe,
Thin, thinner, thee

Notice that since there is only one “H” in “The Brain Trainer,” you can use “H” only once in any words you think of with the given letters.  There are two “N’s” so you can use “N” twice.

Memory skills should be worked on daily. One quick fun way to do this is to draw things from memory. Can you draw the floor plan of your house, your friend’s house, your kid’s house, your local mall, your church or place of worship, and your backyard or street?

Logic and reasoning skills work on mental flexibility and problem-solving. Look around the room you are in and focus on one thing, such as a chair. Write down as many ways as you can to use that chair. Look at the categories you used – this will often help you think of a few more things. Some examples: sit on, use as a stepping stool, make a fort with, use to put your feet up, hold the door open, hold paper down with, keep the door knob jammed closed.

Have fun and experiment with different activities to keep you mind active.

Note: Dr Parker is a part of the comprehensive dementia team at The Neurological Institute, headed by neurologist Hemanth Rao, M.D.

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