Sometimes unsolicited calls on busy, busy days let you know you're making a difference. So it was one day this past summer. I, along with my staff at the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA), were in the thick of planning our events to commemorate National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month in November. By sheer coincidence, a call came in about one of our signature events held annually during that time: National Memory Screening Day.
The woman wanted to tell us about her experience with National Memory Screening Day. She had taken her mother-in-law to a screening site last year to obtain a free memory screening.
"It was a very blissful thing because I knew she was having a problem," the woman said. "It was the stepping stone we needed to get her to a doctor."
The screening results indicated that follow-up was warranted; after visiting her doctor, the woman's mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and put on medication.
"If the program was not there for us to go to, she never would have [gone] to the doctor," she said.
November 17th is your chance for you or someone you know to take that first step. At more than 2,100 sites from coast to coast, community organizations-convenient and local places like retirement centers, houses of worship, pharmacies and doctors' offices-will open their doors for qualified healthcare professionals to offer free, confidential and face-to-face memory screenings on National Memory Screening Day.
The day is meant for people like the woman's mother-in-law and for plenty of others with different circumstances. AFA believes memory screenings are appropriate for individuals concerned about memory loss or experiencing warning signs of dementia; whose family and friends have noticed changes in them; who believe they are at risk due to a family history of Alzheimer's disease or a related illness; or who want to see how their memory is now and for future comparisons. The results are not a diagnosis, and we emphasize follow-up-taking that second step to consult with healthcare professionals.
What we hear increasingly is that people are not being proactive enough. They're tight-lipped with their healthcare professionals or even their families; often, what holds them back is stigma, denial, misperceptions and/or misinformation. As well, healthcare professionals don't always raise the issue. When a friend of mine went for a physical a few months ago, the doctor asked about mostly every part of his body-but never about his memory.
Memory problems could be caused by Alzheimer's disease or other medical conditions. In terms of dementia, missed diagnoses are greater than 25 percent and may be as high as 90 percent of cases. This makes for missed opportunities-to get educated, get treated, get support services, and, simply, get answers about memory concerns. Why miss an opportunity. Take that first step and get screened.
Published On: November 17, 2009