Pilot study: Habits for Healthy Cognitive Aging
Here in the HABIT Program our treatment focus has been helping those diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment, which is a syndrome that tells us something isn't going quite right in the cognitive aging process. We are passionate about our work and are so thankful to work with our HABIT partnerships to maximize their functioning, minimize symptoms, and maximize quality of life for both the person with MCI and their loved one.
I'm delighted to report that in addition to our work with people who have MCI, we are now running a small pilot study to help those without cognitive impairment, who would like to be as proactive as possible about their brain health. This project was inspired by research interventions aimed to support healthy cognitive aging, such as the FINGER study in Finland and work by my friend Dr. Sarah Farias and her colleagues Dr. Katherine Denny and others at University of California-Davis. The program is very similar to that of Drs. Farias & Denny and their team, and I wish to share my gratitude to them for being so willing to share and collaborate on such an intervention. The intervention involves a two pronged approach of developing the strongest cognitive compensatory strategies possible (using a structured planner, developing tasks lists and prioritizing, and organizing into functional zones) and adopting lifestyle patterns to support brain health (physical exercise, cognitive exercise, and stress management).
The design of this pilot study is a randomized trial. Everyone enrolling in the trial receives a packet of materials and recommendations necessary to implement the two pronged brain health approach. Half of the participants are randomized to implement these habits and recommendations on their own over the course of 10 weeks (self-implementation group). The other half of the participants are randomized to attend coaching intervention classes, with me, once per week for two hours. The intervention classes are designed to help provide structure and homework for implementing all of the recommendations over 10 weeks.
We are currently in the 4th week of the 10 week classes and I'm really enjoying working on this project! In March, we'll get feedback from both groups on what they liked, what they didn't like, and measure how well they did implementing all of the recommendations and life changes across the groups. I can't wait for their feedback!
What do you think--would you feel up to implementing recommendations across 6 different areas on your own or would a little weekly help be better for you? I'll plan to report back with another post when we have more information from the results of the study. Finally, I want to give a big thank you to the participants who volunteered to be a part of this project!
If you'd like to talk to others who are living with mild cognitive impairment or their loved ones, please join the Connect discussion Mild Cognitive Impairment (Mild Neurocognitive Disorder).