People have mixed feelings about taking a memory screen. Fifty percent of the public told us they didn’t want to know even if they do have memory loss related to dementia and the other half that have been affected in some way by Alzheimer’s or dementia said they wished they would have known to get checked sooner and thanked us for being at the fair. One family in particular that had a memory screening during the fair decided to take our advice and have follow up with their physician after their mother scored poorly on the memory screen. Two days later, the daughter returned to our booth to thank us for being at the fair. She said, had we not been there, she never would have known her mother was having difficulties as it was not something that was discussed openly nor something she had detected on her own. This is very common among children with aging parents. During the two days after the screening, the daughter took her mother to the doctor and the doctor agreed further testing and screening was recommended. Both the daughter as well as the doctor were very glad they had taken the time to take the screening as the mother would now receive the appropriate care she needed. We had another gentleman stop by, who stated he had been having memory concerns for several months and every time he spoke to his family and co-workers about it they would pass it off as normal aging. After meeting with us, he realized the symptoms he described were in fact something he should talk with his doctor about. Before leaving, he thanked us for being at the fair and said he felt better now that he had someone that seemed to understand and validate what he had been experiencing and planned to schedule a doctor’s visit.

Face-to-face memory screenings average three minutes and consist of questions and tasks to assess memory. HealthStar and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America encourages screenings for adults with memory concerns, a family history of Alzheimer’s disease or those who want to check their memory now and have the baseline results for future comparison. Unfortunately, there’s a large gap in education. There are many reasons for memory loss that are treatable such as vitamin deficiency, thyroid issues, changes in medication, stress and many others to name a few. Once the public was made aware during our time at the fair that there might be a treatable cause, they were more at ease and we saw a big jump in the number of people deciding to take the memory screen. We want to raise public awareness and take the fear out of being screened. Early diagnosis and treatment can substantially help during early onset whereas treatment in later stages of the disease aren’t as beneficial.

70% of families diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia keep their loved one at home until it’s time to move them into a nursing facility. For many with Alzheimer’s or dementia, they will spend several years at home under the care of a family member or other caregiver before the need to move to a higher level nursing facility is required. The behaviors that accompany this disease can be very overwhelming and many families do not have the financial means to cover some of the costs of care so they suffer through the journey alone and often alienated from friends and family that eventually pull away. Changes in healthcare, due to high prevalence of the disease, allow our nursing experts to provide training, education and non-pharmacologic behavior assistance in the home to families and caregivers, which is 100% covered by traditional Medicare and most insurance plans. The public as well as many healthcare professionals are not aware of this available resource.

It is even available to those under the age of 65, if they’ve been diagnosed by a doctor. Family and caregiver burnout rises dramatically when faced with this disease. We had a family member call a few weeks ago, who was completely at their wits end from trying to care for their loved one. When the family member called to ask for help the caregiver’s comment was, “I know I shouldn’t be saying this, but it would be so much easier if he wasn’t here anymore.” Some of the behaviors exhibited by a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia are: agitation, aggression, sundowning, sexual inappropriateness, wandering, hallucinations, repetitiveness, screaming, paranoia, and accusations of infidelity or family members stealing from them. These are very traumatizing behaviors for families who don’t know how to deal with them. The main reason for this is due to the fact that they haven’t been taught how to manage these behaviors at home or how to work with the disease instead of working against the disease. This is a very real problem that we often encounter and families don’t know where to turn to receive more help and available resources. After being in the home and working with the emotionally and physically drained family caregiver, she informed us that she had been dealing with this on her own for four years and had tried several resources but none were able to help in a way that supported her needs. She was extremely grateful and felt better equipped to continue caring for her loved one.

HealthStar uses the free memory screenings as a way to educate the public and provide families with lots of additional resources after a diagnosis. HealthStar also provides a free Memory Café which is a social group for families and the person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Families share their successes and challenges and gain much needed support. Our biggest concern is that the public isn’t aware this type of care is available for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients or that it is covered by insurance.

For additional information on dementia and caregiving check out Alzheimer’s Speaks

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