There are multiple benefits to early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems.
Some conditions that cause symptoms of dementia, such as hormone imbalance, vitamin deficiency and infections, can be reversed. Some individuals with alcohol related dementia may stabilize or show small improvements in intellectual function over time if they maintain continuous sobriety; others demonstrate progressive cognitive loss. Once the cause of a memory problem is determined, treatment can begin. Early diagnosis boosts the chances of successful treatment.
If the memory problems stem from an irreversible dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, the sooner an accurate diagnosis of “probable” Alzheimer's disease is made, the easier it is to manage symptoms and plan for the future.
Early detection also has numerous benefits to caregivers, other family members and society. Read more in “Memory Matters.”
This executive summary is excerpted from “Memory Matters,” a report released by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) in December 2008. The report was authored by Richard E. Powers, M.D., chairman of the AFA Medical Advisory Board, J. Wesson Ashford, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the AFA Memory Screening Advisory Board, and Susan Peschin, MHS, AFA’s vice president of public policy. Many of the statements and themes in the report were developed by the AFA Memory Screening Advisory Board.
Most persons 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.
The proposed answer is that screening for memory dysfunction, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is important, but raises pragmatic, ethical as well as theoretical considerations that need to be addressed before general screening practices can be widely implemented.
Screenings are occurring throughout the nation by local, independent organizations, often with minimal guidance or technical assistance like that provided by national organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) to groups participating in its screening initiative.
To refine the screening process in general, the screening of at-risk populations for dementia should become a cornerstone for early treatment or prevention of cognitive decline. Prospective prevention research will not be performed in a timely manner to confirm the value of screening so policymakers must propose the best possible option as a comprehensive approach to cognitive health.
Multiple types of screening interventions have been described in the medical literature, including person-to-person, telephone and computer-based. Screening is not a diagnosis, but can help lead to the referral of appropriate individuals for further evaluation or to the promotion of cognitive wellness. Screening should not produce adverse outcomes and published screening instruments can be completed in as little as five minutes.
Screening is a safe, cost-efficient intervention that can reassure the healthy individual, promotes successful aging and, when indicated, directs individuals to appropriate clinical resources.
Currently, there is no national strategy on dementia screening in particular and dementia in general, a public health problem related to an at-risk population on the threshold of a boom. It is irresponsible to leave the disease undetected to the extent it is now when there are safe tools available to increase earlier detection. There are several policy recommendations that, if implemented, would assist clinical efforts at early diagnosis and treatment for dementia, and promotion of cognitive wellness.
Click here to read the complete report.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) initiated National Memory Screening Day in 2003 as part of its mission to provide "optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families"…and as part of its focus on “Caring for the Nation.”
The event is held each November in recognition of National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month.
AFA carries out this event in collaboration with local organizations and healthcare professionals across the United States.
Qualified healthcare professionals at thousands of participating sites offer free, confidential memory screenings to individuals with memory concerns or who want to check their memory. Sites also provide follow-up resources and educational materials, including information about memory loss, caregiving and successful aging.
National Memory Screening Day is the highlight of AFA's ongoing national initiative to promote early detection of Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses, and to encourage appropriate intervention, including medical treatments, social services and other resources, as well as raise awareness of successful aging.
AFA believes that memory screenings are a significant first step toward early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia, or another type of condition that is causing memory loss. A memory screening is not used to diagnose any particular illness and does not replace consultation with a qualified physician or other healthcare professional.
A memory screening is a simple, safe and non-invasive evaluation tool that assesses memory and other intellectual functions, and indicates whether additional testing by a qualified healthcare professional is necessary.
Various types of healthcare professionals provide memory screenings, including social workers, pharmacists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and doctors.
A screening consists of a series of questions and/or tasks designed to test memory, language skills, thinking ability and other intellectual functions. Screening tools include the GPCOG, MINI-COG and MIS.
Think you should take a memory screening? These questions might help you decide. If you answer “yes” to any of them, you might benefit from a memory screening.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Health Care Reform,” signed into law in 2010 makes a few upgrades to Medicare with a focus on prevention and early detection.
More Details About the Detection of Any Cognitive Impairment:
What Else to Expect During the Visit:
Preparing for the Visit:
-Memory loss, especially of recent events, names, placement of objects and other new information
-Confusion about time and place
-Struggling to complete familiar actions, such as brushing teeth or getting dressed
-Trouble finding the appropriate words, completing sentences and following directions and conversation
-Changes in mood and personality, such as increased suspicion, rapid and persistent mood swings, withdrawal and disinterest in usual activities
-Difficulty with complex mental assignments, such as balancing a checkbook or other tasks involving numbers
In Order to Qualify for the Visit:
To learn more about Medicare, click here