It’s the day before National Memory Screening Day, taking place on November 18, and like years past, I am obsessing about memories.
I’m rewinding in my head the night that my toddler began counting, skipping some numbers but reaching 20 nonetheless. I’m replaying the day when my organization unveiled the Quilt to Remember in San Francisco and two sisters were reminiscing about their mom’s love of gardening and contemplating how they could weave that theme into a quilt panel to celebrate her life. I’m recalling a grieving son who pulled me aside recently to passionately share memories of his dad before—and after Alzheimer’s disease.
And, most of all, I’m rerunning the conversation I had with a staff member six years ago about why the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) should initiate National Memory Screening Day. In fact, I can recall my very words: If there are screening days for blood pressure and screening days for diabetes, why isn’t there also a screening day for memory?
Tomorrow, there is. AFA’s sixth annual National Memory Screening Day offers free confidential memory screenings at nearly 2,200 sites from coast to coast—the most sites ever to participate!
The day highlights how precious our memories are—and why we need to be proactive when we suspect they might be slipping away. The day is set aside for those with memory concerns, those who want to establish a baseline score for future comparison and those who want to become educated about memory concerns and brain health. Five to ten minutes of your time can let you know if you’re okay or if you should follow up with a clinician. Mere minutes for a lifetime of memories.
Aside from the benefits of memory screenings themselves, National Memory Screening Day prompts conversations about memory concerns, about Alzheimer’s disease, about successful aging—conversations that begin days and even weeks before and continue for days and weeks after the event itself. It’s a conversation that needs to be raised. As our population ages, putting more and more people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease (age is the greatest risk factor), the fear, stigma and denial that stunts the mention of memory problems needs to dissipate. These are the ugly roadblocks to early detection, appropriate treatment and intervention.
By offering screenings at no cost and in convenient locations, by plastering communities with notices about the event and by talking about National Memory Screening Day in the media, we are lifting brain health to the same level of importance as the health of other parts of our bodies. And rightly so. An estimated 50,000+ people will get screened tomorrow. Perhaps you will be one of them.
Published On: November 17, 2008