What is HABIT Healthy Action to Benefit Independence & Thinking®?

Oct 31, 2017 | Dr. Melanie Chandler, HABIT FL Director | @drmelaniechandler | Comments (4)

You saw your doctor, and you were diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).  You may have started medications to help slow the progression of cognitive decline, but you’ve also learned there is no cure. In fact, they say this may (or even will) get worse.  Perhaps you were told there isn’t much else that can be done except wait a year, come back, and find out how much worse.

And that doesn’t sit well with you.

And it doesn’t sit well with us, either.

What is HABIT?

Smiling Couple

Mayo Clinic’s HABIT Healthy Action to Benefit Independence & Thinking® 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 and their family with the uncertainty that comes with a diagnosis of MCI. The program focuses on adjustment to the diagnosis of MCI, adaptation to cognitive and functional limitations, brain wellness education, physical and cognitive exercise, and stress/emotional management.

Watch our video here to learn more!

We developed the HABIT program to provide individuals with MCI and their loved ones with state of the art, evidence-based, lifestyle or behavioral treatments for MCI. We began offering memory rehabilitation to individuals with MCI back in 2005, which grew into the first full HABIT program in 2008.  We have since spread beyond Mayo to train multiple other centers across the country in delivering these types of interventions to individuals with MCI and their families.

This program does not aim go cure your MCI, but to give you tools to help cope and combat the memory loss as best as we know how.

During HABIT you will work with a multidisciplinary team made up of neuropsychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, cognitive therapists, and certified yoga instructors who are passionate about providing this care to our participants. HABIT is a group based program, meaning that you will attend with other individuals experiencing MCI and their partners.

HABIT Components

Participants and a partner attend 5 components a day:

Memory Compensation Training

The HABIT memory compensation training involves learning to write things down—appointments, to dos, notes—in an organized way. While you may already be writing things down, research shows us that when MCI enters the picture, people need a cognitive therapist to really help them adapt to a system that is well organized, has plenty of room for many written entries, and can fit in your purse or pocket so that the memory system is always available.

Cognitive Exercise

In the HABIT program, we introduce you to computerized and other cognitive exercises that may help your concentration and thinking speed. Staying cognitively active and “exercising” your brain helps to maintain or even improve your cognition.


Physical exercise is beneficial for not only physical health and heart health, but also brain health. In the HABIT program, we will encourage you to begin a regular physical exercise routine. Managing stress is also beneficial in maximizing your memory and thinking skills as well as improving your general health. During HABIT you will learn gentle chair-based yoga, to combine both the benefits of exercise and relaxation!

Wellness Health Behavior Change

The Wellness Health Behavior Change discussions of the HABIT program aim to provide up to date information about various topics of importance in MCI but to take this one step further and help you begin to make these lifestyle changes. Our goal is to not only give you up to date knowledge of the scientific evidence on topics such as nutrition, sleep, future planning, and emotional health for brain health, but to also help you on your way to making these healthy changes in your life.

Support Group

A diagnosis of MCI affects both the individual diagnosed and their supportive loved ones. In HABIT, we have a separate support groups for the persons with MCI and their partners. This gives a safe space to talk about things such as “What does the future hold?”  “How do I maintain a balance of safety and independence?  “How can I be a better partner?” or “When do I share this diagnosis with others?”

Who Benefits?

People diagnosed with amnestic MCI from a possible underlying neurodegenerative condition. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other neurodegenerative conditions who have not yet reached the dementia stage may also benefit.

You must have a partner to participate.  The program really is often just as much a benefit to them as to the person with MCI. While most often we have husband and wife teams, we also often have significant others, adult children, siblings, or just very good friends attend together.

How Much Does it Cost?

The exact answer depends on your insurance.  We bill both cognitive rehabilitation and group therapy to your insurance. In our experience, Medicare and multiple private insurers will pay for this service. You can always contact us to have our Mayo’s Patient Financial Services give you a more accurate estimate based on your insurance carrier.

In addition to insurance, we charge a program fee to cover the other parts of the program like the education talks, yoga, and computerized brain exercises.  This program fee also helps cover things such as meeting space, supplies, and sometimes food. Contact us to find out the current program fee.

Don’t Just Ask Us

Words from our Participants

“I would say the tool kit-memory support system- boosts self-confidence. It is backup for the brain!”

“HABIT gave me hope that I will not decline mentally as fast as it might have.”

“This program exceeded my expectations.”

“HABIT gave me hope in doing daily chores correctly and on time. I endorse the use of the calendars whole-heartedly!”

“I think the MSS book is a very powerful tool and it is already helping me.”

“HABIT gave me so much hope for a better and longer life.”

Words from our Program Partners

“I gained insight into MCI, learned new tools, and met some good folks.”

“I loved yoga and will follow-up with yoga classes twice per week.”

“HABIT energized me. I look forward to following up with different aspects of the program and my spouse thinks it will be helpful as well in maintaining his quality of life.”

“I loved it. Best possible step for us to have made at this time in our life.”

“I feel relieved and hopeful about the future.” 

“HABIT will definitely make me a better care giver.”

“I loved the attitude and personality of all the leaders. They made the process fun and the time pass fast.”

“Overall the program was more than I expected. The staff was excellent. We got a lot out of all aspects.”

“HABIT made me more comfortable about the future.”

“We have learned much more factual information about MCI and have been given coping methods to enable us to move forward with hope.”

You don’t just have to wait and see if your memory gets worse.

There are things you can do now.

Any of our HABIT Alumni out there want to chime in and say more about our program? What else is important for someone thinking about this program to know?


How do we find where the Habit meetings are held?


How do we find where the Habit meetings are held?

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H.A.B.I.T. is a program at the three Mayo Clinic locations. So information would be from each clinic.
By meetings you may mean the Support Group meetings and they are held for alumni of the programs.


Are there resources for ones that do not have a partner or cannot attend the 10 day program?


Are there resources for ones that do not have a partner or cannot attend the 10 day program?

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@healingone, This blog is written by the directors of the HABIT program and guest writers. They share much of the teachings from the HABIT program.

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