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The long goodbye by Tina Y. Gerber-McCurley

I was shopping in Walmart last month when I heard a friendly "Hello." It was my grade 7 teacher from R. H. Cornish Public School, Mr. Charles White and his lovely wife. If memory serves me correctly, this was his first teaching position in 1972/1973. That evening I remembered the many experiments we did in science class, and I also recalled several stories Mr. White (no, I still can't call him Charles) shared with the class. He was a fantastic and fun teacher.

Many, like me, notice increasing forgetfulness as we age, and it sometimes takes longer to recall a person's name. I was happy to recall so many delightful stories from such a long time ago. Yet, some days I can't remember why I entered the kitchen. This is normal, as many people notice they become more and more forgetful as they age.

However, if you have increasing or consistent concerns about your mental performance, it may suggest Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Mild cognitive impairment is a general term, mostly used for a subtle but measurable memory disorder. It is characterized by ongoing memory problems but not by confusion, attention problems or language difficulties. Mild cognitive impairment is when people have memory or other thinking problems greater than normal for their age and education. It is the stage between the expected decline in memory and thinking which happens with aging and the more serious decline of dementia. Family and friends may also notice the changes, but these aren't usually bad enough to impact daily life or a person's usual activities.

If your concerns with mental function go beyond what is expected, the symptoms may be due to mild cognitive impairment. The changes in your thinking could be MCI if you forget things more often, miss social events, have a mishap with medication management, have trouble paying bills on time, or with cooking, following a conversation, if you start having problems finding your way around familiar places or begin to have poorer judgment to the point family members need to step in and take over some or all of these things.

Although doctors try, no one knows what goes on inside the mind of someone with MCI, except God. It is important to help people with MCI to see they have not lost their faith. Who are we to say God cannot continue to speak to even the most severely demented person? Anyone who cares for a cognitively impaired person can take part in helping to recognize and meet his or her spiritual needs. A member of my husband's former Church could not read a newspaper or talk about current events, and he was unable to read or write. However, amazingly he memorized the entire Bible with total recall.

If you or someone you care about is having trouble with memory or thinking, it's important to talk with your doctor or health care professional.

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