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Help for Caregivers: Recognize the Signs of Cognitive Impairment

One of the most difficult parts of being a caregiver is watching someone succumb to age. Living a healthy, active life is a good way to fight off many signs of aging and disease, but even the healthiest of us get older, and that sometimes means becoming debilitated in both body and mind.

If you’re taking care of a relative, it can be difficult to recognize signs that could point to problems with their brain and cognitive ability. After all, if you see them often, it can be hard to notice gradual changes to their personality or thinking. Here are a few of the signs that may indicate that your senior may need extra care or attention.

Learn the Signs of Mild Cognitive Impairment

Senior Couple

As we age, our brains become less elastic and a little slower. That’s why we don’t remember names or simply lose track of what we’re thinking. These could be signs of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which can be an early warning for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Other signs of MCI include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed when faced with a decision
  • Having trouble navigating a familiar environment
  • Changes in mood or personality, including anxiety, confusion, depression, or acting suspicious and mistrustful
  • Increased impulsivity or lack of “good judgment”

MCI isn’t caused by one specific disease or condition. It may be a side effect of certain medications, and it may be brought on by endocrine or metabolic disorders (e.g., thyroid gland dysfunctions), as well as changes to the brain. In some cases, MCI may stabilize or even improve, but other people with MCI may develop Alzheimer’s Disease.

Learn the Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease


Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer’s causes abnormal changes to the brain that get worse over time. Although it is related to age, it is not a normal part of aging.

In Alzheimer’s early stages, many people experience no outward signs that anything is wrong. But over time, the symptoms get worse and interfere with their ability to function. That’s why it’s important to recognize the symptoms early.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the 10 most common signs include:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or problem-solving
  3. Difficulty with familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding images or spatial relationships
  6. Problems with words (speaking and writing)
  7. Misplacing things
  8. Poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from socializing
  10. Changes in mood or personality

Toward the end stages of Alzheimer’s, people need a great deal of care. In some cases, they have trouble speaking, swallowing, or walking.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. However, there are many effective treatments available that fight symptoms and even slow the decline, making it possible for patients to live a more normal life.

Help Your Loved One Protect Their Brains

Women on Video Call Through Laptop

Both MCI and Alzheimer’s may be related to genetics, but you can still help your loved one protect and even improve their brain health with a few lifestyle changes:

Serve healthy foods. Avoid highly processed or fatty foods, alcohol, and aspartame (the artificial sweetener found in many diet sodas). Instead, serve lean meats, whole grains, healthy fats, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Get them moving. Exercise is one of the best ways to protect brain health. Direct effects include improving memory and thinking by reducing inflammation and stimulating growth factors; indirectly, exercise can help improve sleep quality and helps reduce stress and anxiety.

Keep them socially engaged. Even though it’s still not a good idea to visit relatives and friends in-person right now, help your senior stay social and connected with video-chats, telephone calls, and whatever social opportunities you can perform safely. This will help them feel less isolated, lonely, and depressed, which could offer protection from Alzheimer’s.

Regular doctor’s appointments. Many seniors with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, so regular visits are a good way to “check in” and make sure their condition is being monitored.

When You Need Help, We’re Here for You

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AltaMed is here to support caregivers. We offer many senior services, including care from specialists who understand the unique physical and mental health needs of the elderly.

If your senior has two or more medical conditions and needs some extra support, contact us to learn more about AltaMed PACE, the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. AltaMed PACE helps keep seniors healthy and independent at home by providing coordinated medical care, social services (as needed), meals, and more. The program also helps seniors build social connections and try new activities, which can protect brain health and fight depression.

As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Caregivers, you need to care for yourself, too! That means eating well to keep your immune system healthy, getting your rest, practicing self-care, and taking care of your own health needs. Don’t neglect your routine visits and tests: we’re open to serve you and we’re committed to keeping you safe. Call us to schedule an appointment at (888) 499-9303.

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The Services to Help You Grow Healthy and the Protection to Keep You Safe

For the past 50 years, our top priority has been helping our patients grow healthy. Our locations remain open and safe to support you and your family’s health needs. While we have telehealth visits available, there’s no substitute for in-person visits. Here’s how we’re keeping you safe:

All of our sites follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines:

  • Patients and staff are screened for COVID-19 symptoms before being permitted to enter.
  • Everyone is required to wear a mask.
  • We have placed hand sanitizer stations throughout our facilities.
  • All exam rooms are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between each patient.
  • All of our providers and staff use personal protective equipment (PPE) that includes a mask, protective eyewear, a plastic face shield, and gloves (when appropriate).

Use Our Patient Portal to Get In and Out

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The MyAltaMed patient portal now has more features that can help you minimize contact while getting you checked in and ready for your appointment faster. Using the patient portal, you can:

  • Schedule, register, and check in to your appointment from your own device
  • Communicate with your health care team
  • View lab results and visit notes
  • Set up and attend a telehealth visit

Now Open and Serving You Safely

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Telehealth visits are convenient, but they are no substitute for in-person care – and you can’t get a vaccination over video-chat! And, if you have a newborn, bringing them for in-person visits is critically important. Whether you need a dental appointment or an appointment for any of our other services, our facilities remain open and safe for you and your family to visit.

If you have any questions or concerns about your health or how to schedule an appointment, please call us at (888) 499-9303.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

Health aging

Healthy Aging: What’s Normal Versus What You Should Worry About

As the saying goes: growing old isn’t for the faint of heart! It takes a lot of work to make it through 50 or 60 years in this world. But the good news is if you take care of yourself, your golden years can be healthy, happy, and active.

However, there’s no denying your body changes with age. Some of it’s expected: our hair gets a little grayer (or falls out), our skin becomes more saggy, we don’t move quite as fast as we used to, and we may even have to work harder to remember things.

It’s all normal…or is it?

We’re here with an honest discussion of issues around aging, including what you can expect, what’s normal, and what’s a cause of concern.

Trouble Holding Your Urine

Nurse Holding Seniors Hand

The Problem: You know what we’re talking about: you sneeze or laugh hard, and you feel like you’re leaking. Or, suddenly, you REALLY HAVE TO GO and release a few drops before you can get to the bathroom.

What’s Happening: As we age, the muscles in and around our bladder may get weak, making it harder to hold our urine. Combine that with some normal bladder shrinkage, and you may experience the sensation of having to go quite often.

What You Can Do About It: Talk to your doctor. They may recommend exercises or physical therapy to help you regain strength and control.

What’s Not Normal: If you suddenly start losing control of your bladder or bowels, contact your doctor immediately.

You Gain Weight More Easily

Senior Couple

The Problem: When you were young, you could eat pizza, hamburgers, and ice cream and not gain a pound. But now that you’re past 55, it seems like you just look at a donut and gain weight.

What’s Happening: Many people slow down in two ways when they age: they stop exercising or moving as much. And a slowing metabolism, or the rate at which we burn our food for fuel, can also contribute to weight gain.

What You Can Do About It: These are great reasons to get active and stay active – even as few as 30 minutes of regular cardiovascular exercise a day can help boost your metabolism and keep you mobile, strong, and protect your bones.

What’s Not Normal: A rapid or sudden weight gain could be a symptom of a much larger problem, so you should see your doctor ASAP.

Your Memory isn’t What It Used to Be

Happy Senior Couple

The Problem: You run into the neighbor you’ve known for years at the grocery store…Ana? Amy? Michelle? You find yourself forgetting not only names but common words and occasionally what you’re doing.

What’s Happening: Beginning in middle age, your brain’s anatomy and chemistry start to change. Certain parts of your brain may be slowing down, shrinking, or becoming worn. These things can affect your ability to learn new information or retrieve information and memories (which is why you forgot your neighbor’s name).

What You Can Do About It: Exercise helps protect your brain at every age. There are many other healthy steps you can take to keep your brain sharp, such as maintaining strong social connections and learning new things

What’s Not Normal: If you start using the wrong words – for example, every time you want to say the word “computer” you say “blueberry” instead, you start becoming confused during everyday activities, or you’re experiencing personality changes – it’s time to see your doctor.

Your Body Feels Achy and Creaky

Exercise for Seniors

The Problem: When you do something physical, you pay for it the next day with aches and pains in your back, your knees, and everywhere else. And some days, even getting out of bed is a challenge!

What’s Happening: The cushioning that protects your joints can dry out and the tissues that hold your muscles and bones together stiffen. As you age, you’re also more likely to develop arthritis.

What You Can Do About It: Most normal, age-related aches and pains can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers or aids like heating pads or ice compresses. If you’re overweight, losing a few pounds can also take some of the pressure off your body.

When to Worry: If you still don’t get relief from pain relievers and rest. Or if you have pain that’s accompanied by weakness, fever, or strange sensations in that part of the body.

Your Vision is No Longer Sharp

Senior Person Smiling

The Problem: You put your glasses on to read something…then take them off again because they must not be working! At least, that’s what you hope even though you’re having trouble seeing far-away things, too.

What’s Happening: Your eyes can change with age. The lens inside the eye loses its ability to change shape, which is why it’s so difficult to focus. As we age, we are more likely to develop conditions like glaucoma, macular degeneration, dry eyes, and loss of peripheral vision. All of these things can affect our vision.

What You Can Do About It: Start protecting your eyes now! If you have diabetes, you may need more frequent retinal exams, as well.

When It’s Not Normal: Go to the doctor immediately if you start experiencing “floaters” or flashing lights, which could be symptoms of retinal detachment. You should also see your doctor if you suddenly experience dramatic vision changes.

AltaMed Can Help You Grow Healthy at Every Age

Senior in Medical Checkup

Receiving the right care is important for maintaining and even improving your health as you age, and we’re here for you. Stay proactive with age-appropriate screenings and routine checkups. In addition to complete primary and specialty care services, we also have a program called AltaMed PACE for independent seniors with complex medical needs. No matter your age, we can help you grow healthy for life.

Help for Caregivers: Recognize the Signs of Cognitive Impairment