Alzheimer's Foundation of America
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | October 27, 2005

National Memory Screening Day Offers Free Testing for Memory Concerns
Actress Deidre Hall Urges Public to be Proactive

NEW YORK, NY — Tens of thousands of Americans concerned about memory loss, including the wave of baby boomers who will start turning 60 next year, are expected to take advantage of free in-person memory screenings on National Memory Screening Day on November 15.

National Memory Screening Day is an initiative of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) and is held annually during National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month to promote early detection and treatment of Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses, as well as to provide information about successful aging.

Introduced three years ago, the event has been gaining momentum each year—with more than 700 sites in nearly all 50 states offering the face-to-face screenings on November 15. New locations this year include Kmart pharmacies, AARP chapters and banks; other screenings are taking place at local Alzheimer's organizations, community centers and physicians' offices. To find a local site, visit www.nationalmemoryscreening.org or call toll-free 866-AFA-8484 .

Actress Deidre Hall, best known as “Dr. Marlena Evans” on Days of Our Lives, is encouraging anybody with memory concerns to participate in National Memory Screening Day.

“Memory loss is a hard thing for people to acknowledge. But it's also very helpful to be proactive and to find out what you're facing. Getting a memory screening is a first step toward knowledge and a giant step toward care. It can make all the difference for families,” said Hall, whose father had Alzheimer's disease.

The incidence of Alzheimer's disease is expected to triple by mid-century to an estimated 16 million Americans. However, the disease is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed by clinicians using routine history and medical examinations. Warning signs of dementia include forgetfulness about names and events, asking repetitive questions, loss of verbal or written skills, confusion, and erratic mood swings.

Administered by doctors, social workers or other healthcare professionals, the non-invasive, confidential screenings used on National Memory Screening Day take about ten minutes and consist of tasks to assess memory and other intellectual functions. Most commonly used is the Mini-Mental State Examination, which has been documented as an effective screening tool for dementia.

According to Richard Powers, M.D., an AFA board member and chief of the Bureau of Geriatric Psychiatry at the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, these memory screenings provide “a unique opportunity for healthcare consumers to receive optimal care.”

“There's nothing that replaces the human contact during these screenings. Professionals can answer consumers' questions, emphasize the importance of follow-up and direct at-risk individuals to appropriate clinical and community resources,” he said.

Dr. Powers added: “Early detection enables persons to benefit most from available medications that can help slow the progress of symptoms, and psychological and social interventions that can ease the journey for families. And it enables individuals to exercise self-determination related to future care, and legal and financial issues.”

On National Memory Screening Day, these simple screenings are used to flag a potential problem, but are not used to diagnose any illness. Clinicians urge individuals with abnormal scores to pursue an extensive medical evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional.

As a follow-up to a screening, exams 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.

Eric J. Hall, AFA's chief executive officer, noted that queries to AFA and its hundreds of member organizations indicate that more and more people, especially aging baby boomers, are concerned about memory loss.

“We hold National Memory Screening Day each year because it's so important for people to find out what is causing memory loss. If it is Alzheimer's disease, we want the public to know that, like with other diseases, catching it early could improve health outcomes,” he said, adding:

“More often, people walk away from these screenings with a big sigh of relief. Plus, we use this as a vehicle to promote ways for people to protect their brain health.”

Several recent studies point to the importance of early detection. Among them, a study in Neurology found that individuals with mild dementia and those aware of their diagnosis were more likely to be able to make competent decisions regarding their treatment. Another study, published in the Archives of Neurology , concluded that the Latino population in particular needs to recognize symptoms of Alzheimer's disease since they developed symptoms seven years earlier than white non-Latino subjects.

This year's sponsors of National Memory Screening Day are Forest Pharmaceuticals and Ortho-McNeil Neurologics.

AFA is a New York-based national nonprofit organization that focuses on care for individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses, and their families. It unites hundreds of member organizations across North America that provide hands-on support services. AFA's services include a toll-free hotline, educational materials, a free caregiver magazine and professional training. For more information, call (toll-free) 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org .

Contact: Carol Steinberg
Phone: 866-AFA-8484