It's really very scary. One time it was almost like I was his mom answering all the questions. For a man to admit that he has MCI and be, you know, be more vulnerable than he usually would be in his profession or with other men, can be challenging.

Well, just, you know, we always have little issues that aren't big enough to really put forward because you think, well, that kind of bothered me but I won't say anything about it kind of thing.

Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, is a condition in which an individual experiences changes in their cognitive abilities like memory, problem-solving, or language. When they see their doctor about these concerns, they learn through neuropsychological testing that their memory or these other cognitive abilities were worse than what is seen in just normal aging.

At the same time, individuals with MCI are still functioning pretty well in their day-to-day life. They're still able to manage things like their medications, finances, and driving pretty well, perhaps with only minor assistance. In other words, memory has not gotten to the point that we would call dementia or where they are dependent on someone else to take care of them.

When Ray was diagnosed with memory impairment, when he realized he had a memory problem, are primary care physician recommended us to go through the HABIT program.

HABIT — Healthy Action to Benefit Independence & Thinking Program is a 10-day program for individuals who have received the diagnosis of MCI and a partner to learn the best skills for maintaining independence in spite of memory problems, improving self-esteem, and coping with the emotions that arise for the person in their family with the uncertainty that comes with a diagnosis of MCI.

HABIT is a group-based program, meaning that you will attend with other individuals experiencing MCI and their partners. The HABIT program is held across Mayo campuses, including Mayo Arizona, Mayo Florida, and Mayo Minnesota. And expanding into the Mayo Clinic Health System.

We developed the HABIT program to provide individuals with MCI and their loved ones with state-of-the-art evidence-based treatments for MCI. HABIT is a program of lifestyle or behavioral interventions in addition to the care you may already be receiving from your medical healthcare.

During HABIT, you will work with a multi-disciplinary team made up of neuropsychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, cognitive therapists, and certified yoga instructors, all of whom are passionate about providing this care to our participants. In HABIT, we use methods backed by science to help people with MCI incorporate new brain health habits into their life. These habits, when supported by a partner, can compensate for certain memory deficits and promote optimal wellness for mind and body.

During HABIT, you may participate in five treatments with your partner. Memory compensation training, cognitive exercise, yoga, wellness behavior change discussions, and support group. Compensation based cognitive rehabilitation is the backbone of the HABIT program. For decades, Mayo Clinic has provided cognitive rehabilitation to patients with memory loss due to other causes, traumatic brain injury or stroke, for example.

The HABIT team has taken the most evidence-based compensation techniques and adapted them to support our patients with MCI. The training involves learning how to write things down, such as appointments, to-dos, notes in an organized way. Certainly many of our patients are writing things down or have always written things down. However, research shows us that when MCI enters the picture, there's the need to beef up this habit with the aid of a cognitive therapist into a system that is well organized, has plenty of room for all those written entries and is portable so that the memory system is always available.

In addition to learning good techniques to help compensate for memory loss, we also highlight how cognitive exercise can help keep thinking skills healthy. There are a number of ways one can remain cognitively active. In the HABIT program, we introduce you to a computerized program full of cognitive exercises that might help you with your concentration and thinking speed.

There's clear evidence that physical exercise is beneficial not only for physical health and heart health, but also for brain health. In the HABIT program, we will encourage you to begin a regular physical exercise routine. There's also growing evidence that relaxation and meditation are helpful to brain health as well. During HABIT, you will learn gentle chair based yoga to combine both the benefits of exercise and relaxation.

The neuroscience around Brain and Cognitive Health continues to grow. The wellness behavior change discussions of the HABIT program aim to provide up to date information about various topics of importance and MCI.

Nutrition is one example of the type of topic covered in this component of the program. Our goal is to not only give you up to date knowledge of the scientific evidence of nutritional recommendations for brain health, but also help you on your way to making these healthy changes in your life.

Finally, a diagnosis of MCI can come with some emotional changes for both the person diagnosed with MCI and their supportive loved ones. The support group component of HABIT is the one component of the program were persons with MCI and their partners attended separately. This is an opportunity to receive peer support around having received a diagnosis of MCI or being a partner of a loved one with MCI.

This program has meant to me to be development of a very strong appreciation for the skill of the people who are managing and conducting the program.

It's really a lifesaver. The whole program for me, with my mild cognitive impairment, is a true lifesaver.

You don't have to just wait and see if your memory gets worse when you see your doctor again. Do something to take charge of your brain health now. You can participate in one of multiple Mayo Clinic locations. People come from all over the country to participate. We cannot cure your MCI and the HABIT program. We're optimistic that researchers continue to work very hard on this problem. What we can offer you in HABIT our non-medicine treatments to maximize functioning, confidence, and quality of life for you and your partner as you move forward in life with MCI. Please email us or visit our webpage to learn more.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health. Click here for an email preview.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Feb. 08, 2023