National Memory Screening Day Events Today Promote Early Detection
The National Memory Screening Day is an annual initiative by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) to promote the early detection of memory problems in older adults. The day was first introduced in November 2003 and is now held each November in recognition of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Today, sites across the country are conducting free, confidential screenings as well as providing follow-up resources and educational materials for those concerned about memory loss.
Early Detection Can Improve Quality of Life
Memory screenings are a significant first step toward finding out if a person may have a memory problem caused by Alzheimer’s disease or other medical condition. It is not used to diagnose, but rather indicate if a more in-depth medical consultation is needed.
Some memory problems are due to conditions that are easily treated, such as vitamin deficiencies or thyroid problems. In these cases, the earlier the recognition of the problem, the easier it is to treat. One of the symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency, for example, is memory impairment. Older adults are at a greater risk for B12 deficiency because the vitamin requires a component of gastric acid (intrinsic factor) for its absorption. Atrophic gastritis, inflammation of the stomach lining that reduces the production of stomach acid and intrinsic factor, is common in the elderly.
Early detection may not prevent Alzheimer’s from occurring, but it can improve the quality of life for those patients. Medical treatments and other lifestyle factors may help delay the onset of dementia. Legal and financial counseling can help both patients and caregivers with decision-making that will be important for the future of the Alzheimer’s patient. And support groups and emotional counseling is beneficial for both mental and physical well-being of patients and their families.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has a comprehensive list of screening sites across the nation at www.afascreenings.org. These are available to anyone concerned about memory loss or who are experiencing the warning signs of dementia including becoming more forgetful, difficulty concentrating or recalling words, or changes in mood or personality.
At the screenings, various types of healthcare professionals, including social workers, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physicians, will present a series of questions and/or tasks designated to test memory, language skills, thinking ability and other intellectual functions. Results are confidential and written copies will be provided for the patient to take to their personal healthcare provider for follow-up.