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Memory screening provides baseline, early diagnosis

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Shelly Birkelo
October 27, 2012

Christine Waga's mother and her mother's eight siblings all suffered from dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Christine was understandably worried.

"It was very devastating, and I was quite concerned that me and my brother might be prone," she said.

That's why the 67-year-old Janesville woman wasted little time in scheduling a memory screening when they were offered last year at the Alzheimer's Support Center of Rock County.

"I wanted to find out one way or another then let my children know," she said. "It would be beneficial for them as well as myself."

Waga did the free, 20-minute screening so she would have a baseline to compare her memory to in the future. That's important, said Dan Wilcox, fund development/public relations coordinator, at the local Alzheimer's Support Center.

"Early diagnosis is key to be able to set up a health plan to keep dementia from progressing as long as possible," he said.

The screening also provides peace of mind by knowing for sure if you are having cognitive issues or if it's just normal aging, Wilcox said.

Marlene Churchill, 67, Janesville, was at the support center Thursday morning being screened by Dana MacFarlane, LEEPS (Language Enriched Exercise Plus Socialization) volunteer coordinator, and Wilcox.

"I know it's important to be aware of what to look for so if I start having problems I'll be able to recognize them in myself or a loved one," Churchill said.

"It's scary, but painless, so I try to make people feel as comfortable as they can," MacFarlane said.

After asking Churchill some initial questions about her name, age, date of birth, occupation and reason for visit to the clinic, MacFarlane also wanted to know if there were any factors such as pain or sleep deprivation that could influence Churchill's test performance.

Next, MacFarlane asked questions and posed visual memory tasks in eight categories—from attention to memory and reasoning—that were scored and sometimes timed.

Churchill scored in the average range, which was excellent, MacFarlane said. And with Churchill's permission, her results are being forwarded to her primary physician, Wilcox said.

The number of memory screenings at the support center in the last 12 years has continued to grow every year. Wilcox said. It now averages more than 60.

"We've already done in the high 40s this year," including Churchill, he said.

"I'm glad I'm done, and I'm glad I passed," Churchill said.

EARLY SIGNS OF ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

1. Trouble learning and remembering information, such as inability to remember conversations, repeating the same questions, forgetting appointments or frequently misplacing belongings.

2. Trouble performing tasks with multiple steps, including difficulty balancing a checkbook or preparing meals.

3. Change in judgment and problem solving, such as wearing inappropriate clothing for the season or occasion or having trouble handling situations at work or at home.

4. Disorientation, including not being able to find the way to familiar locations while driving.

5. Change in language and word finding, such as using words incorrectly or having difficulty naming familiar objects.

6. Change in mood and behavior, including being passive, irritable or suspicious or having a decreased interest in previous hobbies.

7. Loss of initiative, such as showing no interest in things previously enjoyed.

8. Taking much longer to complete routine chores.

9. Decline in physical coordination, such as falling a lot, increased loss of balance or declining hand-eye coordination.

If you go

Who: The Alzheimer's Support Center of Rock County and Huntington Place

What: Free, professional and confidential memory screenings for Rock County residents. Event held in conjunction with November as Alzheimer's Awareness Month.

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, and continuing the first Wednesday of each month, starting Dec. 5.

Where: Huntington Place Assisted Living, 3808 N. Wright Road, Janesville.

More information: Call 608-314-8500 to schedule an appointment


 

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