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Alzheimer's Foundation of America Offers Free Memory Screenings Nationwide
Date:10/28/2008

Initiative Addresses Healthcare Concerns, Gains Support of Leading Professional Groups

NEW YORK, Oct. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- During this time of heightened concerns about rising healthcare costs, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) will offer free memory screenings at more than 2,000 local sites across the country as part of its 6th annual National Memory Screening Day on November 18th.

Coinciding with National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month in November, the annual initiative is aimed at promoting early detection of memory problems and appropriate intervention. AFA encourages adults with memory concerns, a family history of Alzheimer's disease or a desire to establish a baseline score for future comparison to get screened and to pick up educational materials about memory concerns, successful aging and local resources.

"This year's event is particularly timely," said Eric J. Hall, AFA's president and chief executive officer. "With the increasing costs of healthcare on the minds of Americans, National Memory Screening Day offers a free and convenient way to check out memory concerns and brain health in general. Detecting a chronic disease early can end up saving money -- and heartache -- in the long run. It pays to be proactive."

The relevance of National Memory Screening Day is underscored by a recent nationwide survey conducted by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease that found that the cost of healthcare is a top concern among American voters, second only to worries about the economy. More than two thirds of respondents felt that "catching and treating chronic illness early" is the best way to improve the nation's healthcare. Treatment of chronic illnesses, which includes Alzheimer's disease, currently represents 75 percent of the country's healthcare costs, or $1.5 trillion annually.

It is estimated that five million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, which causes loss of memory and other intellectual functions, and the incidence is expected to triple by mid-century. The cost of an individual's care can be as much as $36,000 per year. Alzheimer's disease has risen a notch to the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

This year's National Memory Screening Day has garnered the support of 22 professional organizations, including groups such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Geriatrics Society, the American Medical Women's Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Public Health Association, Mental Health America, the National Hispanic Medical Association and the National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc.

"It's a testament to the importance of this initiative that so many organizations are joining together to support the cause," said John Wesson Ashford, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., senior research scientist at the Stanford/VA Aging Clinical Research Center, Palo Alto, CA, and chairman of AFA's Memory Screening Advisory Board. "With the escalating incidence of Alzheimer's disease, it is quite clear that we can't afford to ignore its warning signs, as individuals and as a nation. We must take steps to optimize healthy aging and to improve quality of life for those living with the disease, and for their families."

For many, getting screened on National Memory Screening Day is the first point of addressing brain health. An AFA survey of screening participants last year found that more than two-thirds self-reported memory complaints, but only one in five had discussed them with their physicians despite recent visits. While age poses the greatest risk for Alzheimer's disease, affecting mostly people aged 65 and older, the survey also found that participants had other healthcare concerns, such as depression, diabetes and obesity -- all known risk factors for the brain disorder.

The face-to-face screening takes approximately five minutes and consists of a series of questions and tasks. Sites, spanning all 50 states, include the entire chain of Kmart pharmacies, senior centers, houses of worship, assisted living facilities and doctor's offices.

The results do not represent a diagnosis, and screeners encourage those with abnormal scores as well as those who still have concerns to pursue a full medical exam. Follow up with a clinician may reveal that the person's memory problems stem from a reversible condition such as a vitamin deficiency or thyroid problem, or from an irreversible disorder like Alzheimer's disease.

Early identification of Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia allows affected individuals and their family members to benefit from available treatments that can help slow progression of symptoms, as well as to plan for the future and access social services support. Research shows that counseling and other support for caregivers can improve a caregiver's physical and mental health, and can delay nursing home placement of their loved ones up to 18 months.

Alzheimer's disease warning signs include: forgetting people's names and events, asking repetitive questions, loss of verbal or written skills and confusion over daily routines.

Last year, an estimated 16 percent of participants in National Memory Screening Day had abnormal scores.

At the Poudre Valley Health System, Fort Collins, CO, about 10 percent of those who were screened by nurse case managers were flagged for follow up.

The remaining 90 percent "did fine," said Jill Taylor, the system's senior services manager. "The best part was just in the participants being able to talk to the nurses and get a sense of, 'Hey, I'm doing OK,' and sharing some concerns or family history issues."

For information about National Memory Screening Day, including screening sites, visit http://www.nationalmemoryscreening.org or call 866-AFA-8484.

This year, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation is the premiere sponsor of National Memory Screening Day; Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is the presenting sponsor; and Eisai Inc. and Pfizer Inc are the remembrance sponsors.

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in New York and made up of more than 950 member organizations nationwide 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 hot line, counseling, educational materials, a free caregiver magazine, and professional training. For information, call (toll-free) 866-AFA-8484 or visit http://www.alzfdn.org.


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SOURCE Alzheimer's Foundation of America
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