Memory screening raises dementia awareness

November 19, 2013 • Local News

Joyce Fisher, left, talks with Victoria Candelaria of Gentiva Hospice during the ninth annual Memory Screening Day at the Roswell Elks Lodge, Tuesday morning. (Mark Wilson Photo)

Memory loss has a sort of ring to it that scares people. But taking preventative measures and catching early signs of dementia can help both individuals as well as their families.

As part of National Memory Screening Day, Comfort Keepers helped host the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s annual memory screening at the Elks Club Tuesday.

The free screenings were designed to help those who either worry about losing their memory, or for families and spouses who believe another is showing early signs of memory loss.

With cookies, coffee and other snacks, as well as many [auth] health related organizations and companies offering information, the lodge had a homey feeling. It was designed to make people feel comfortable.

“It’s not just about giving a test or explaining information,” explained Cindy Vogelsang, a nurse practitioner who conducted screenings.

She said it was important to develop a rapport with the patients who came in, and “get them to relax a little.”

If people were stressed or nervous, they had a tendency to score poorly. The preliminary test was out of nine points, but if anyone scored less than nine they were recommended to a doctor for a more in-depth test.

With a pretty steady flow of people, the screeners ended up testing 76 people, a slight decrease from last year’s 114.

But not everyone who showed up thought they were losing their memory. Louann Gayman goes every year just to keep checking on herself.

“I live alone,” she explained. And in order to “make sure I’m still sane,” she takes the screening annually.

Her motto is “better safe than sorry,” but she also believes in the importance of doing more than just watching television.

“A lot of people don’t do things to keep their minds active,” Gayman said. “(Experts) say to do more crosswords, but I’d rather read a book.”

Vogelsang agreed that keeping an active mind is one key factor in preventing dementia.

“The main point,” she said, “is to instill healthy habits.”

Some pointers for not only fighting off dementia but for healthy living in general are to exercise, maintain a healthy diet, drink alcohol in moderation, don’t smoke, get quality sleep, manage stress, stimulate the mind and be active — socialize.

By following at least some of these rules, Gayman passed with flying colors. But she’ll be back again next year.

“More people in town should be doing this,” she said. “I think it gives us a base line that we can control.”

Half of the reason for the memory screening is to spread awareness of dementia.

“People out in the community who probably need to be here (aren’t),” Vogelsang said. “Maybe what people learn here they’ll take out and share with the community.”

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