Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Memory Screenings

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 offering an additional 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 April 18, 2013 from 1 – 4 pm. Appointments are now being accepted for a free memory screening; please call 433-1886 to reserve your spot.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Age related cognitive abilities

An interesting perspective on looking at an old problem in a new way…Memory is typically viewed as a skill that declines with aging, with studies showing that older adults have greater susceptibility to forgetting new information, and have higher distractibility in learning tasks, than younger adults. Some studies have suggested, however, that some cognitive changes that occur with aging are better seen as shifts rather than decline.

For instance, in experimental studies on memory that involve intentional distraction by the experimenters, older adults show greater skill than younger adults at remembering, and drawing inferences from, the distractions, using this information to improve their performance on the experimental task. A report shows that the ability to process distractions can be used to reduce age-related forgetting.

In the experiments, a group of younger adults and a group of older adults were provided a list of 20 words and given two tests to recall these words, once immediately after reading the list, and again after a 15-minute delay. During the delay, participants were shown a stream of pictures with superimposed words that they were asked to ignore. Ten words from the initial 20-item list were repeated in the pictures. Participants were then asked to recall as many of the initial 20 words as they could over a period of 45 seconds. While there were no significant differences in forgetting between the repeated and unrepeated words among the younger adults, older adults recalled 30 percent more of the repeated words than the unrepeated words, recalling about the same number of repeated words as the younger group did.

These findings suggest that so-called implicit rehearsal of information (i.e., reminders that do not require specific conscious attention) may be a useful strategy to improve memory among older adults, in contrast to existing memory interventions (such as intentional mnemonic exercises) that are based on strategies used by younger adults.

The Dale Association is offering a free memory screening on Thursday, April 18 from 1:00-3:00 pm at 33 Ontario St, Lockport. To schedule your 10-minute appointment, please call: 716-433-1886.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Volunteering to make a Difference

What is an Ombudsman?  Ombudsman means “citizen representative” and is a very special person who is a volunteer advocate for residents of long-term care facilities.  Good Ombudsmen are compassionate through and through, are good listeners and communicators that bridge the interaction between residents of nursing/ adult homes with facility staff, and show concern about the residents’ care.  They are available to nursing/adult home residents to help those residents.  

I’d like to dedicate this article to all of the extraordinary Ombudsmen who exemplify the dedication and caring we look for in our volunteers.  In Niagara County, Ombudsmen serve 15 facilities as advocates for residents of long-term care facilities. Ombudsman is a Swedish word for “mediator”. Responsibilities of an Ombudsman include advocating for residents and their families in resolving problems or complaints, monitoring the residents’ quality of care, helping protect residents’ rights and assuring safety and fair treatment with dignity and respect.  New York State’s Long-term Care Ombudsman program is sponsored in Niagara County by The Dale Association and helps approximately 2300 residents county-wide.  I’ve had the privilege of meeting most of the volunteer Ombudsman; as volunteers, they are an extension of The Dale Association and I am honored to have such a wonderful group of people helping support The Dale’s mission in our community.  We greatly appreciate our Ombudsmen and the wonderful, caring support they provide.

Volunteers are the heart of our services at The Dale Association.  One of the most visible volunteer opportunities is that of a long-term care Ombudsman.  If you are looking for a volunteer experience where you can have a direct impact on the quality of life for people in long-term care facilities, consider becoming a Niagara County Ombudsman.  As a trained Ombudsman, you can have a positive impact on the quality of the residents’ lives, in as little as four hours a week and you’ll set your own hours. Ongoing support and assistance are provided to all volunteers.  The next training session starts April 29th  If you are at least 21 years old and interested in learning more about how to become a Niagara County Ombudsman, please contact Nancy Smith at 433-3344, ext 1.

This is a volunteer experience for compassionate people with good communication skills and a willingness to be of service to the elderly. It is both rewarding and meaningful. Funding for the Ombudsman Program is provided by New York State and the Niagara County Office for the Aging and administered by The Dale Association, Inc.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Medicare Information at Town of Lockport

It would be easy to assume that everyone knows what he or she needs to know about Medicare.  Experience tells us, however, that that’s not necessarily the case.  First, some background, Medicare is a health insurance program for people age 65 or older.  It is also for people under 65 with certain disabilities.  In addition, Medicare is for people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant).

If you are turning 65 years old this year or are new to Medicare, the Town of Lockport is co-hosting a forum in conjunction with The Dale Association and the Niagara County Office for the Aging Health Insurance Information and Assistance Program (HIICAP), New York State EPIC, and Niagara County NY Connects Program on March 27, 2013 at 5:30pm at Lockport Town Hall, 6560 Dysinger Rd. The topic is "Learn about Medicare" This topic is intended to help people with the important decisions they will need to make when entering Medicare. Individuals will have an opportunity to have all their questions and concerns addressed.

Susan Christian, Niagara County Office for the Aging HIICAP and Aging Services Specialist and presenter on the 27th says, “The presentation is geared towards people turning 65 or who are new to Medicare.  They will learn about all their choices in an unbiased manner.”

Cheryl Antkowiak, Town of Lockport Councilwoman and co-sponsor of the event encourages people to attend and gain a clear understanding of all Medicare choices.

Medicare topics that will be discussed include:

  • Get the basics on Medicare Parts A,B,C, and
  • Medicare Advantage Plus
  • Medigap Insurance
  • Cost sharing
  • Preventive benefits
  • Extra Help Program   
EPIC is a New York State program that provides additional drug coverage and premium assistance for seniors with Medicare part D.  You can join EPIC if you are 65 years or older, a New York State resident, and have an annual income up to $35,000 (single) or $50,000 (married).
Colleen Slate, The Dale Association’s Senior Centre Director says, “Providing a workshop about information as important as Medicare in an objective way is an important part of our mission in helping people make important life decisions.”