Alzheimer's Foundation of America Encourages Americans to Take Advantage of Free, Confidential Memory Screenings

Tenth Annual National Memory Screening Day Underscores Increased Focus on Alzheimer's Disease

NEW YORK, Nov. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Misperceptions about Alzheimer's disease and other memory problems continue to lead many Americans to believe that memory loss, personality changes and other symptoms are a "normal part of aging."  That's why the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) is encouraging anyone with memory concerns and those interested in learning about brain health to take part in its 10th annual National Memory Screening Day (NMSD) on November 13.   

About 2,500 community sites nationwide will be offering free, confidential memory screenings and educational materials about memory problems and successful aging on NMSD itself or another day in November.  The event takes place during National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month.

An initiative that began in 2003 and has grown exponentially since, NMSD marks its 10th anniversary as the nation is focusing increasing attention on the escalating incidence of Alzheimer's disease.

The first National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease, released in May by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, includes a call for a greater emphasis on early diagnosis, as well as educating the public and healthcare professionals about Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. In addition, a new Medicare annual wellness exam includes detection of cognitive impairment as one of the free preventive services for beneficiaries.

"It's time to bring memory concerns more into the mainstream," said Eric J. Hall, AFA's president and CEO.  "While it may seem unconventional for a healthcare professional to provide a memory screening at a community venue like a library, a house of worship or even a shopping mall, a decade of hands-on experience in testing hundreds of thousands of people through AFA's memory screening initiative has made clear that these tools are an effective intervention—a first and convenient step to finding out what's really going on. And in reality, it can end up making a real change in people's lives."

During NMSD, qualified healthcare professionals across the country will administer face-to-face screenings. A screening consists of a series of questions and tasks, and takes about five to 10 minutes. Screeners emphasize that the test results do not represent a diagnosis, and encourage people with below-normal scores as well as those who still have concerns to pursue a full medical exam.    

Participating sites include Alzheimer's agencies, senior centers, assisted living facilities, libraries, Ys, doctor's offices, and pharmacies. Among them, Kmart's 922 pharmacies will offer the memory screenings, as well as blood pressure and body mass index screenings, on November 14. To locate a screening site, visit www.nationalmemoryscreening.org or call (toll-free) 866-232-8484.  

Evidence that memory problems are not being addressed, an AFA survey of NMSD participants in 2010 found that 92 percent of those polled had never been given a screening by their primary healthcare provider; what's more, 83 percent who were worried about their memory had not discussed their concerns with a healthcare provider. Nearly 12 percent of participants surveyed failed the administered screening test.

According to the findings of a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive for AFA, two-thirds of caregivers said they initially mistook behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, such as irritability and aggression, as "normal aging." As a result, those false impressions delayed their loved one's diagnosis of the incurable brain disorder. 

"The results of past National Memory Screening Days highlight the value of early detection of memory problems and point the way to proper clinical diagnosis," emphasized J. Wesson Ashford, M.D., Ph.D., chair of AFA's Memory Screening Advisory Board and senior research scientist at Stanford/VA Medical Center, Palo Alto, CA.

According to research reports, general practitioners miss about half of all dementia cases. Some memory problems can be readily treated, such as those caused by vitamin deficiencies or thyroid problems. Other memory problems might result from causes that are not currently reversible, such as Alzheimer's disease.

Ashford noted that "early recognition of Alzheimer's disease can help diagnosed individuals and their families in many ways." For instance, they can benefit from available treatments that can help slow progression of symptoms, as well as plan for the future and access social services support.

A recent survey by Working Mother magazine found that 84 percent of caregivers of family members with Alzheimer's disease said they would want to be diagnosed early and 51 percent wish their loved ones had been diagnosed sooner.  

As many as 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, which causes loss of memory and other intellectual functions, and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.  Warning signs include forgetting people's names and events, asking repetitive questions, loss of verbal or written skills, confusion and personality changes.

This year, more than 30 leading professional organizations, including the American Academy of Neurology, are supporting NMSD. Silver sponsors are Accera, Inc., Forest Laboratories, Novartis Pharmaceuticals and Senior Helpers.

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America, based in New York, is a national nonprofit organization that unites more than 1,600 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families. Its services include counseling and referrals by licensed social workers via a toll-free hot line, e-mail, Skype, and live chat; educational materials; a free quarterly magazine for caregivers; and professional training. For more information about AFA, call toll-free 866-232-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.

SOURCE Alzheimer's Foundation of America



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