If you are a close family member or friend of someone experiencing MCI you may be wondering what you can do to assist that person. You may also be looking for some guidance in managing how your life has been impacted by the changes you have noticed in your MCI relative.
Family members tell us they notice a number of changes in their relative with MCI, including:
These changes can have a negative influence on your well-being that are similar in spirit, although not as severe, as the symptoms of caregiver burden experienced by family carers of a relative with dementia. Indeed, research shows that family members with an MCI relative report experiencing more symptoms associated with depression and anxiety as compared to same aged peers who do not have a close relative experiencing cognitive decline. In our clinical practice, these negative effects on family are commonly associated with the following types of concerns:
In our behavioural intervention program for MCI, Learning the Ropes for Living with MCI™, we have adopted the following approaches to helping family members more positively manage the personal effects of having a relative with MCI. The core message behind the approaches is ‘You cannot control whether or not your relative has MCI, however you can control how you choose to deal with change’. The methods for positively managing change centre on choosing how to respond rather than ‘reacting’ to a situation you find personally challenging. If you had a bird’s eye view of the situation as it unfolds how would you like to see your best self respond? The simple approaches outlined below need to be practiced and utilized in conjunction with positive lifestyle choices, such as making time to do activities that are personally meaningful, enjoyable, and contribute to your overall sense of well-being.
Finally, the personal impacts of having a relative with MCI are not all necessarily negative. Positive effects are also noted by close family. For example, in our experience running programs for people living with MCI, close family members often report that learning about MCI has brought them closer to their MCI relative, helped them focus more on what is important in life, and enabled them to develop qualities (such as patience) and new skills. Finding out positive ways to cope with change due to MCI can be empowering and make living with MCI an experience that personally benefits rather than hinders your life.
Parts of this posting were previously published in Murphy, Troyer, & Climans (2014) Learning the Ropes for Living with MCI™: Participant Workbook. Toronto: Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care.