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Smart Health

Preserve independence

By Dr. Gregory Jicha from November 2013 Issue

Before people develop Alzheimer's disease, they often display mild cognitive impairment, otherwise known as mild memory loss. Although most people with mild memory loss are capable of independent living, there are safety considerations to take into account.

What safety issues should you be concerned with if you have mild memory loss, or if a loved one or friend has the condition?

Individuals with even mild memory problems can find their health, financial stability, and independence in jeopardy. Understanding these challenges and being proactive in pre-empting catastrophe is often vitally important.

Mild memory problems that don't interfere with daily activities are frequently considered benign, but they are often the harbinger of more progressive and severe decline and impairment that can rob us or our loved ones of independence and quality of life. They can also jeopardize physical, mental, financial, and legal activities most of us take for granted.

What specific safety issues are of the most concern for people with mild memory loss?

There are five main categories of safety issues that should be looked into: medication oversight, financial oversight, driving safety, nutrition and fluid intake, and cooking and home safety.
When should you be concerned and take action?

The simplest rule is pure common sense. We don't want to overrestrict choices and freedoms, but on the other hand, we may be all that stands between ensuring a safe environment and a catastrophe that could cause that once-independent person to lose privileges and freedoms, moving them into a fully dependent setting.

If you are uncomfortable with the safety of a living situation, it is probably unsafe, and needs to change to avoid such catastrophe. Those seeking resources to help a loved one with memory loss are welcome to call the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at (859) 323-5550 for guidance.

Dr. Gregory Jicha is a neurologist with the University of Kentucky Sanders-Brown Center on Aging.

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Memory Resources

• The Alzheimer's Association has information on Alzheimer's as well as dementia and mild cognitive impairment, both for those who have these conditions and for their caregivers. Go online to www.alz.org
or call (800) 272-3900.

• The Mayo Clinic has information about MCI and other memory diseases. Go online and use the search box on its home page at www.mayoclinic.com.