National Memory Screening Day
On November 13, the Waterville Library in Waterville, OH, the Waretown United Methodist Church, in Waretown, NJ, and Sykes' Restaurant in Kalispell, MT will be offering the public more than their usual wealth of books, spiritual sanctuary and lunch, respectively. In addition, healthcare professionals will provide free, confidential memory screenings and educational materials about memory concerns and brain health as part of National Memory Screening Day (NMSD), an annual initiative of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA).
Evidence that memory screenings are moving more into the mainstream, these three venues represent some of the more nontraditional sites across the nation that are holding screenings on NMSD on November 13 or another day during National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month in November.
AFA introduced the memory screening initiative in 2003. Local sites from the onset have primarily been doctors' offices, hospitals, Alzheimer's agencies, home care agencies and long-term care facilities; prominent institutions participating this year include the Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Phoenix, AZ and the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute in Tampa, FL, for example.
More recently, nontraditional sites have joined the bandwagon, and are among the 2,500 NMSD sites this year. An increasing number of venues are also holding screenings throughout the year as an outgrowth of NMSD.
"We are counting on local organizations to help bring memory concerns into the mainstream," said Eric J. Hall, AFA's president and CEO. "While it may seem unconventional for a healthcare professional to provide a memory screening at a community venue like a library, a house of worship or even a shopping mall, a decade of hands-on experience in testing hundreds of thousands of people through AFA's memory screening initiative has made clear that these tools are an effective intervention—and can ultimately change people's lives."
On NMSD, qualified healthcare professionals administer the face-to-face screenings, which consist of questions and tasks, and take about five to ten minutes. The results are not a diagnosis, but can indicate whether someone should follow up with a healthcare professional.
Among the nontraditional sites, 42 libraries in several states will be collaborating with health-related agencies to offer screenings this year.
Brenda Mauster, founder of Gathering Place Interfaith Ministries, Angleton, TX, approached the Brazoria County Library System about holding screenings as part of the agency's year-long initiative to raise awareness of Alzheimer's disease in this rural area.
As a result, for the first time, ten of the system's 11 libraries will host 14 free screenings by volunteer nurses and social workers, and a speakers' bureau on NMSD or throughout November.
"It's a lot less threatening to say, 'Let's just go to the library.' It's a friendly, welcoming environment without the stigma of the health care system that frightens so many people," suggested Tom West, the library system's adult program coordinator.
In addition, the public can find screenings at independent pharmacies and retail chains, including all 922 Kmart pharmacies nationwide on November 14, and nearly 50 Fred Meyer stores in Alabama, Idaho, Oregon and Washington every day by appointment year-round.
Among houses of worship, All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK will do screenings for the second time this month, on November 14 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. At its event last week, 17 people, all 65 or older, were screened; of them, five were referred to their physicians for follow up.
"Realizing the impact of the silver tsunami on the incidence of Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia, we think it's important for people to know how they stand with their memory. We want to relieve their worries or refer them on to their physicians," said Nancy Wilder, the church's parish nurse whose parents both had Alzheimer's disease.
NMSD marks its 10th anniversary as the nation is focusing increasing attention on the escalating incidence of the brain disorder as the population ages. The federal government's recently-released first National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease urges both a greater emphasis on early diagnosis and education about dementia.
Fueling the concern that memory problems are not being addressed, an AFA survey of NMSD participants in 2010 found that 92 percent of those polled had never been given a screening by their primary healthcare provider; and 83 percent who were worried about their memory had not discussed their concerns with a healthcare provider.
Currently, as many as 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. Warning signs include forgetting people's names and events, asking repetitive questions, loss of verbal or written skills, confusion and personality changes.
To find a screening site, visit nationalmemoryscreening.org or call (toll-free) 866.232.8484.