FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | OCTOBER 20, 2003
Alzheimer's Foundation of America Sets National Memory Screening Day TV Personality Leeza Gibbons Stresses the Importance of Early Diagnosis
NEW YORK, NY – The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) has declared the third Tuesday of November as National Memory Screening Day so that individuals concerned about memory problems can take advantage of free, confidential screenings at hundreds of sites across the country with the goal of early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or related dementias.
AFA, a national organization whose members provide support services to the estimated five million Americans with Alzheimer's disease and their families, is sponsoring the national initiative in collaboration with The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation.
Noted TV and radio personality Leeza Gibbons is passionate about the importance of memory screenings as a way of empowering people with knowledge and support. “This is not a disease that will wait for you to be ready,” she said.
AFA's first National Memory Screening Day—which will take place this year on November 18—coincides with National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month in November. It highlights the importance of early diagnosis so that individuals can obtain proper medical treatment, social services and other resources related to their conditions.
“Early diagnosis of a memory disorder can go a long way toward improving quality of life,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA's chief executive officer.
“National Memory Screening Day represents a giant step toward leading individuals up the right path. Our goal is for them to follow up with the next steps—further medical testing and consultation with a physician, if the testing raises concerns,” he said.
Just as importantly, Hall added, the screenings should help allay fears of those who don't have a problem. Suggestions about how to hold on to memory will be available.
The AFA cautioned that while screenings are used as an indicator of whether a person might benefit from an extensive medical evaluation, it is not used to diagnose any illness and in no way replaces an examination by a qualified physician.
The event is being supported by a widespread public relations campaign, including public service announcements by Gibbons. Gibbons founded The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation in response to her own family's trial with Alzheimer's; she lost her grandmother to the disease and her mother now battles with the final stages of Alzheimer's.
“The benefits of getting an early diagnosis are huge,” Gibbons said. “Patients can begin to benefit from medicines that work best at the early stages of memory disorder and they can participate in their care, letting caregivers know what their wishes are.”
AFA member organizations from coast to coast offer a wide range of support services that can help those affected by Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. These include cognitive stimulation programs, support groups and in-home respite care.
The screenings average ten minutes and will be administered by neurologists or other physicians, social workers, dementia specialists, pharmacists or other healthcare professionals. AFA members and other local organizations, including assisted living facilities and community centers, are designated testing sites. Educational materials and information about community resources will be on hand.
Hall suggested that anyone concerned about changes in memory or cognitive functioning should take advantage of the testing. Signs that there might be a problem include: forgetfulness about names and events, asking repetitive questions, loss of verbal or written skills, confusion about time and place, and erratic swings in mood and behavior.
Comprehensive medical work-ups may reveal that the person is suffering from a reversible condition, such as a vitamin deficiency or thyroid problem, or from an irreversible disorder like Alzheimer's disease, Pick's disease or Parkinson's-related dementia. Alzheimer's, which robs individuals of memory and other cognitive functions, is the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S.
At screening sites, AFA and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation will be distributing a teal-colored “Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Ribbon” to symbolize the importance of early identification of the disease.
To locate screening sites, visit www.nationalmemoryscreeningday.com or call 866-AFA-8484.
Besides National Memory Screening Day, AFA will host other events to recognize National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, including its first National Commemorative Candle Lighting on November 13.
AFA, a Manhattan-based nonprofit organization, advocates for “care in addition to cure” on the national front, and collaborates with member organizations nationwide on innovative programs that provide educational and social services to those with dementia and their families. For more information, visit www.alzfdn.org or call 866-AFA-8484.
Contact: Carol Steinberg