November 15 Event Initiative Offers Education, Road to Diagnosis
NEW YORK, Nov. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As federal officials and other experts work toward developing the first-ever national plan that will address the growing crisis of Alzheimer's disease, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) is encouraging Americans to take their own steps to be proactive about memory health by taking advantage of free memory screenings during its National Memory Screening Day (NMSD) on November 15.
Held during National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, the event this year will involve about 2,500 sites that will provide confidential memory screenings and distribute information about memory problems, successful aging and resources. Sites include Alzheimer's agencies, senior centers, libraries, long-term care residences, home care agencies, hospitals, doctors' offices and pharmacies, including the entire chain of Kmart pharmacies nationwide. To locate a site, visit www.nationalmemoryscreening.org or call 866-AFA-8484.
AFA has championed community memory screenings since 2003 for people who have memory concerns, a family history of Alzheimer's disease or who want to check their memory now and for future comparison. Many past participants have indicated that the screenings mark the first time they are discussing memory concerns, despite recent visits to their doctors.
Underscoring the need for greater attention to Alzheimer's disease are studies that show that general practitioners miss about half of dementia cases. As well, with advanced age the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, which currently affects 5.1 million Americans, the incidence is increasing dramatically in line with aging baby boomers.
Recently, AFA strongly urged that the current efforts to craft a national plan to defeat Alzheimer's disease include beefed-up efforts toward early detection, including a public service campaign to drive proper diagnosis and treatment, and inclusion of cognitive screening as part of the new Medical Annual Wellness Exam.
"Our nation needs to get this disease under control. A big part of that is talking about memory concerns in the first place. Only from there can people move on to get a proper diagnosis, treatment and support, as well as plan for the future," said Eric J. Hall, AFA's founding president and CEO, who serves on the new Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care and Services established by the National Alzheimer's Disease Project Act to advise on the national plan.
Dave Sheehan of Haynesville, LA knows what it's like not to know what's causing memory problems—and then to know what a diagnosis feels like. Last week, he retired from serving as a pastor for the United Methodist Church for the state of Louisiana due to his symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. He had been forgetting meetings and had gotten lost on his way to do prison ministry before he was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease last October by physicians at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Shreveport, LA.
"Of course it was stunning to hear the diagnosis, but I was relieved because I knew something was terribly wrong," said Sheehan, 64, who served in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War.
The formal diagnosis prompted him to learn more about the disease, as well as make plans for the future, including relocating soon with his wife to her parents' home in Alabama.
"Knowledge has always been a source of consolation and comfort to me," he said.
During AFA's National Memory Screening Day, qualified healthcare professionals administer the face-to-face screenings, which take five to ten minutes and consist of a series of questions and tasks. The results do not represent a diagnosis, and screeners encourage participants with abnormal scores as well as those who still have concerns to pursue a full medical exam.
Follow up with a clinician may reveal that a person's memory problems stem from a reversible condition such as a vitamin deficiency or thyroid problem, or from an irreversible disorder like Alzheimer's disease.
The 9th annual event has garnered the support of 30 leading professional associations, including the American Academy of Neurology, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, the American Geriatrics Society, the American Pharmacists Association, and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, as well as organizations that represent other degreed professionals, direct care employees, family caregivers and long-term care organizations.
The almost 1,000 Kmart pharmacies nationwide will be offering memory screenings, as well as blood pressure and body mass index screenings and other services, as part of the chain's Health and Wellness In-Store Event on November 15; Super Kmart stores will host the event on different days.
Warning signs of Alzheimer's disease include forgetting people's names and events, asking repetitive questions, loss of verbal or written skills, and confusion over daily routines.
Event sponsors are Forest Laboratories and Senior Helpers, as silver sponsors; and Accera Inc., Eli Lilly and Company, and Novartis, as remembrance sponsors.
Also to mark National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, several hundred sites nationwide will hold local candle lighting ceremonies as part of AFA's National Commemorative Candle Lighting on November 13. For more information, visit www.candlelighting.org.
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-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.
SOURCE Alzheimer's Foundation of America