Monday, October 29, 2012

The Importance of Memory Screenings

Please help spread the word about National Memory Screening Day on November 15, 2012.  Each year the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing optimal care to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and their families, holds National Memory Screening Day.  This event marks the focal point of AFA’s national initiative to promote early detection and intervention for individuals concerned about memory loss as well as to educate the public about successful aging.

Memory screenings make sense for anyone concerned about memory loss or experiencing warning signs of dementia; whose family and friends have noticed changes in them; or who believe they are at risk due to a family history of Alzheimer’s disease or a related illness.  Screenings are also appropriate for anyone who does not have a concern right now, but who wants to see how their memory is now and for future comparisons.

Some of the Warning Signs of Dementia Include:
  • Trouble with new memories
  • Relying on memory helpers
  • Trouble finding words
  • Struggling to complete familiar actions
  • Confusion about time, place or people
  • Misplacing familiar objects
  • Onset of new depression or irritability
  • Making bad decisions
  • Personality changes
  • Loss of interest in important responsibilities
  • Seeing or hearing things
  • Expressing false beliefs
It is important to know that the above warning signs may also be indicative of a number of other health issues, including everything from depression to disorientation.  Warning signs may be useful in raising public awareness about Alzheimer’s disease; however, it is not wise to assume that the warning signs automatically mean the presence of Alzheimer’s disease.  

Memory screenings are a significant first step toward finding out if a person may have a memory problem.  A memory screening is a simple and safe evaluation tool that checks memory and other thinking skills. The following questions might help you decide if you should be screened.  If you answer “yes” to any of them, you might benefit from a memory screening.

  • Am I becoming more forgetful?
  • Do I have trouble concentrating?
  • Do I have difficulty performing familiar tasks?
  • Do I have trouble recalling words or names in conversations?
  • Do I sometimes forget where I am or where I am going?
  • Have family or friends told me that I am repeating questions or saying the same thing over and over again?
  • Am I misplacing things more often?
  • Have I become lost when walking or driving?
  • Have my family or friends noticed changes in my mood, behavior, personality, or desire to do things?
If a memory screening indicates possible problems, the person should follow up with a doctor or another health care professional as soon as possible for a complete medical evaluation.  A person’s primary care provider may also recommend seeing a health care professional with expertise, such as a neurologist, geriatrician or psychiatrist.  Follow up is important to identify the cause of memory problems. 

Some memory problems can be readily treated, such as those caused by a vitamin deficiencies or thyroid problems. Other memory problems might result from causes that are not currently reversible, such as Alzheimer’s disease.  In general, the earlier the diagnosis, the easier it is to treat one of these conditions.

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia illnesses can improve the quality of life. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease can learn more about the disease, including available and emerging medical treatments; get counseling and other social support in the community; address legal, financial and other planning issues; and have more of a say in decision making.  Caregivers and other family members can take advantage of community services, which can help them feel better – physically and emotionally.  They can discuss treatment, future care and other issues with their loved one, rather than having to make decisions on their own.

To participate in Memory Screening Day in Lockport, call The Dale Association at 433-1886 to schedule an appointment for a free, confidential memory screening. Appointments are now being scheduled for times between 1:00 and 4:00 pm.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Memory Screening Tool

Most people with dementia remain undiagnosed by their primary care providers, and families often fail to recognize the significance of early cognitive symptoms.  In response, there has been a growing interest in screenings for memory problems. 

National Memory Screening Day is an annual initiative spearheaded by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), in collaboration with community organizations that promotes early detection of memory problems as well as Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses, and encourages appropriate intervention.  By popular demand, The Dale Association is again participating in a day of confidential memory screenings, as well as follow-up resources and information about dementia and successful aging.

Memory screenings make sense for anyone concerned about memory loss or experiencing warning signs of dementia; whose family and friends have noticed changes in them; or who believe they are at risk due to a family history of Alzheimer’s disease or a related illness.  Screenings are also appropriate for anyone who does not have a concern right now, but who wants to see how their memory is now and for future comparisons.

These screenings are not a diagnosis, but can suggest whether a medical evaluation would be beneficial.  Extensive study has indicated that these screenings are of value to individuals who participate in them. Unfortunately, with an issue as sensitive as Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses, there is often misinformation.  AFA has provided us with some facts to address some of the more common misconceptions about memory screening and National Memory Screening Day.  AFA believes that all individuals should be empowered to make informed decisions to better manage their own health, not discouraged from screening based on misinformation. Memory screenings are a significant first step toward finding out if a person may have a memory problem.  Memory problems could be caused by Alzheimer’s disease or other medical conditions.

The memory screening tests made available to participating sites (including The Dale Association) are validated for effectiveness.  It is important to keep in mind that NO medical test, whether for screening or for diagnosis, is 100% accurate and any test can produce “false positive” or “false negative” results.  However, the memory screening test that AFA provides for National Memory Screening Day demonstrates 80 – 90% or higher probability of true positives and probability of true negatives in reviewed studies – similar to other established screening tests such as a mammography and Pap smear. 

The face-to-face screening takes place in a private setting.  The person who administers the screening reviews the results with the person who is screened, and suggests that those with abnormal scores and those with normal scores but who still have concerns follow up with a physician or other healthcare professional.  The person who is screened receives the screening results to bring to his or her healthcare professional, as well as materials with information about memory issues and questions to ask healthcare professionals.  Information about successful aging, including the benefits of proper diet, physical exercise, mental stimulation, socialization and stress management will also be available.

Please help spread the word about Memory Screening Day on November 15, 2012 from 1 – 4 pm. Appointments are now being accepted for a free memory screening; please call 433-1886 to reserve your spot.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Helpful Hints When Help Is Needed At Home

Over 44 million Americans spend time caring for family members or friends who can no longer live on their own without assistance.  Family caregivers often find themselves juggling caregiving with work and other family responsibilities.  Paid care may be needed to supplement the care they are providing and help their loved one to continue to live at home. Today, I am including some helpful hints, if care is needed at home.

Some key considerations include: Assessing your family member’s needs, seek the advice of a professional if needed, selecting a care provider, make sure to check references, make sure the care provider is aware of any special care needs, monitor the care, intervene if problems arise and have key contact and emergency information in an accessible location. A further explanation of each of these important steps follow.

Assess your family member’s needs: The first step in any caregiving situation is determining what kind of care is needed.  Does your family member need help with bathing, dressing, and other hands-on care and/or activities such as shopping and cleaning?  Does he or she have cognitive problems that pose a safety risk?  Will your family member accept help?  These and other questions need to be addressed.  Always remember, it is important to involve your family member in care planning discussions and decisions at each step along the way if he or she is able to participate.

Seek the advice of a professional if needed: Don’t be afraid to enlist the assistance of a professional.  You can access the Eldercare Locator, a free publication service from the U.S. Administration on Aging at or by phone at 1-800-677-1116 to assist in finding resources in your local area.  You may also visit the website for the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers at to find a care manager.  This is a professional who specializes in long-term care and can assist in evaluating needs and locating services.

Selecting a care provider: Help at home may come from a variety of sources depending on you family member’s needs.  A home care agency that includes services ranging from companion care to personal care may work best when your family member needs help with daily activities such as bathing and dressing and assistance with household chores.  Your loved one may not require hands-on assistance and you might select an agency whose staff can assist with shopping, laundry, and similar tasks.  You may also choose to hire an independent care provider.  In making your selection, cost, staff availability and needed staff skills will all factor into your decision.

Make sure to check references:  Whichever option you choose, it is important that you check credentials.  If the service comes through an agency, find out what kind of background check they do when hiring staff.  If you are hiring and independent provider, it is very important to do a background check, obtain references and perform an on site interview.  Remember, if you are hiring an independent person, you will have full responsibility for supervising the care.

Make sure the care provider is aware of any special care needs: Whether or not the agency provides supervision, you should make certain that supervisors and direct care providers are aware of any likes and dislikes your family member may have, any special precautions such as allergies, or safety concerns that require attention as well as his or her medications and their potential side effects.  Write down the important information and revise it as changes occur so that all caregivers, even substitutes, can refer to it.  Never assume that information has been transferred from one person to another.

Monitor the care: Ongoing monitoring of the care is essential.  It is important to keep in touch with care providers, both those who are providing the day-to-day direct care and the supervisors who are monitoring the care.  Try to visit at various times of day, unannounced on occasion, especially when the care provider is new.  Speak with your family member about how things are going.  Observe for changes in his or her mood or behavior that may indicate that a problem exists.  If you live at a distance or are unable to monitor the care yourself, you may want to hire a geriatric care manager to assume those responsibilities.  Close monitoring is especially important if you have an independent provider.

Intervene if problems arise: If you are concerned about the care your loved one is receiving or have questions, do not hesitate to contact the supervisor if the care is through an agency.  Whatever the situation, it is important to address it early on.  Remember that quality care for your family member is the first priority.

Have key contact and emergency information in an accessible location:  It is important that written information is available in your family member’s home in the event of an emergency, including your family member’s preferred hospital, and contact information for you, a second family member, and his or her physician(s).  Have available a current list of your family member’s medical problems, allergies and medications, as well as copies of insurance cards, living will or health care power-of-attorney documents should he or she need to go to the hospital.  Write out directions to the home to easily direct emergency service providers.  All of this is key to assuring your family member receives the best treatment possible.