FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | October 23, 2007
Alzheimer's Foundation of America Holds Fifth Annual National Memory Screening Day
Record Number of Sites, including Kmart Chain, are Participating
NEW YORK, NY—The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA), drawing attention to the need for healthy aging and early detection of memory loss, is holding its fifth annual National Memory Screening Day on November 13, with a record number of sites from coast to coast offering free memory screenings.
On National Memory Screening Day itself or another day during November, about 2,000 sites in 46 states will offer confidential memory screenings, education about Alzheimer's disease and successful aging, and access to local resources.
This year, Kmart will be participating in the initiative; it will be holding memory screenings, as well as other types of health screenings, at all of its 1,100 pharmacies nationwide as part of its Gold K Day on November 16.
Other screening sites include senior and community centers, assisted living facilities, adult day centers, and doctor's offices. The face-to-face screening takes about five minutes to complete and consists of a series of simple questions and tasks. It is administered by a qualified healthcare professional, such as a physician, nurse, psychologist, pharmacist, or social worker.
AFA's National Memory Screening Day coincides with National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, which takes place during November. The incidence of the disease is expected to triple to 16 million in the United States by mid-century. Age is the greatest risk factor.
“It is essential to diagnose memory loss in its early stages since it can be indicative of a more serious medical condition. Memory screening is an important first step. If the memory loss is a result of Alzheimer's disease, early detection leads to greater opportunities for treatment and intervention, which can improve an individual's quality of life,” said Eric J. Hall, chief executive officer of AFA.
The importance of memory screenings was underscored recently in New York and California, where both state legislatures passed resolutions designating November 13 as the state's official memory screening day.
The New York State resolution called memory screenings “a safe and cost-effective intervention to direct at-risk individuals to appropriate clinical resources,” and noted that “recent advancements in scientific research have demonstrated the benefits of early medical treatment for individuals with Alzheimer's disease, as well as the benefits of early access to counseling and other support services for their caretakers.”
According to John Wesson Ashford, Jr., M.D., senior research scientist at the Stanford/VA Aging Clinical Research Center, Palo Alto, CA, and chairman of AFA's Memory Screening Advisory Board, “Memory screening is one of the best tools to detect Alzheimer's disease or another problem that is causing memory loss. Impaired memory can be an indicator of many other conditions as well. The key is to find the root of the problem.”
“However,” he added, “we should be forward thinking to see how to optimize our memory, and keep track of it and try to improve it, both as an early indicator of disease and to improve our success and enjoyment in the world.”
In addition, the need for further education about Alzheimer's disease was highlighted recently in an AFA survey showing that ethnic groups mistakenly think that Alzheimer's disease is a normal part of the aging process. The survey – Investigating Caregivers' Attitudes and Needs (ICAN) – conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of AFA, found that Hispanic and African-American caregivers were significantly more likely to dismiss the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease as old age, compared to caregivers of other races.
AFA urges anyone concerned about changes in their memory or other mental functions to visit a local screening site. Warning signs include: forgetting people's names and events, asking repetitive questions, loss of verbal or written skills, confusion over daily routines, and erratic mood swings.
AFA emphasizes that memory screenings are not used to diagnose any illness. Individuals who score poorly are advised to consult with a qualified healthcare professional and, if necessary, get a complete medical examination.
A follow up exam 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.
If it turns out that the person's memory loss is related to Alzheimer's disease, available medications can help delay progression of symptoms of the disease. In addition, early detection enables individuals to be more involved in long-term planning and take advantage of support services.
Last year, some 21,000 people participated in memory screenings at more than 700 sites nationwide on National Memory Screening Day. An estimated 10 percent of those screened were advised to follow up with a health care professional for further evaluation.
Among the sites, the Alzheimer's Family Organization, New Port Richey, FL, has been involved in National Memory Screening Day since the event began in 2003, and it also conducts memory screenings throughout the year. So far, it has screened about 1,000 people in Central Florida.
“Those individuals who have a negative finding are very relieved that they do not need further investigation at this time. Those who have a positive finding are appreciative that they have caught the trouble in the bud and can proceed to more in-depth investigation,” said Dominick De Petrillo, the organization's executive director.
For additional information on National Memory Screening Day, including a list of participating sites, visit www.nationalmemoryscreening.org or call 866-AFA-8484.
Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is the presenting sponsor of National Memory Screening Day.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in New York and made up of hundreds of member organizations that provide hands-on programs to meet the educational, emotional, practical and social needs of families affected by Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses. AFA's services include a toll-free helpline, counseling, educational materials, a free caregiver magazine, and professional training. For information, call (Toll-Free Helpline) 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org .
Contact: Carol Steinberg