FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | May 21, 2009
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Promotes Free Memory Screenings Year-Round
NEW YORK, NY — As part of its ongoing initiative to promote early detection of memory problems and successful aging, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) recently introduced a new program that encourages local organizations across the country to offer free, confidential memory screenings and education about brain health throughout the year.
AFA eases the way for local groups to host screenings by providing sites with screening tools and educational and marketing materials; offering training and guidance on implementing the event; and publicizing the screenings on AFA’s Web site. Screening sites are listed at www.nationalmemoryscreening.org.
“Memory screenings need to become as much of a household word as blood pressure checks. By providing convenient and free access to these screenings, we hope people will be more proactive about their memory concerns. It’s critical to pave the way for early detection,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA’s president and CEO.
The new service, called “Community Memory Screenings,” builds on AFA’s annual National Memory Screening Day, which will be held this year on November 17.
Emphasizing the role screenings can play in opening a dialogue, an AFA survey found that more than two-thirds of participants in National Memory Screening Day in 2007 had memory complaints but only one in five had discussed them with their physicians despite recent visits.
As part of Community Memory Screenings, qualified healthcare professionals administer the non-invasive screening—a series of questions and tasks that takes about five to ten minutes—and provide educational materials. Screening results do not represent a diagnosis and individuals with below-normal scores are encouraged to pursue further medical evaluation. Some memory problems stem from reversible conditions, like vitamin deficiency or thyroid problems, while others result from irreversible conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Myriad community venues, such as local Alzheimer’s agencies, senior centers, long-term care facilities and retail pharmacies, have signed on. Among them, pharmacists at 42 Fred Meyer Stores in Oregon and Washington are providing screenings every day by appointment.
“We thought this would be a great thing because we’re reaching people who might not otherwise get screened,” said Jennifer Davis, PharmD., pharmacy clinical coordinator at Fred Meyer. “We wanted to raise the public’s consciousness, be available to our patients and be an easy source of information.”
Garden Square of Greeley in Colorado signed up for the Community Memory Screenings program after having participated in National Memory Screening Day. In April, the assisted living facility offered screenings at two community centers as part of a two-day regional health fair—and, to its surprise, more than 400 people got tested. With such enormous demand, it now plans memory screenings several times a year at its two residences, in Greeley and Westlake, and at health fairs.
Lasha Seaman, the facility’s Life Enrichment director, said she is “fascinated” by the overwhelming number of participants.
“People are obviously interested,” she said. “They’re concerned about the day-to-day memories they forget, and they want to know more about how their brain is working and what to watch for.”
Currently, Alzheimer’s disease affects as many as 4.2 million Americans and the incidence is expected to triple by mid-century. Warning signs include memory loss, especially of recent events, trouble completing familiar tasks, poor judgment and confusion. AFA advises anyone exhibiting these symptoms to check out their concerns with a healthcare professional.
A report released by AFA late last year cited research that supports memory screenings “as a simple and safe evaluation tool that assesses memory and other intellectual functions and indicates whether additional testing is necessary.” Further, the authors said, “Screenings also can reassure the healthy individual and promote successful aging.”
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in New York and made up of more than 950 member organizations that provide hands-on programs to meet the educational, emotional, practical and social needs of families. AFA’s services include a toll-free helpline, counseling, educational materials, a free caregiver magazine, and professional training. For information, call 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.
Contact: Carol Steinberg