What if it’s ? Quit Worrying and Get a Memory Check During National Memory Screening Week.

3 Nov

National Memory Screening wk

I met Marianne Sciucco in the virtual world on Face Book. She is an author and to be honest, the lovely blue hydrangeas on her book cover are what lured me into reading her novel, aptly titled, Blue Hydrageas.  It is a moving story of a couple dealing with Alzheimer’s. Today she has her own story to share.

MarianneI’m writing today as one of the forgotten, one of those left behind in the fog of Alzheimer’s disease that took over someone I loved.

The first time this happened was in the late 1980’s, when, as a 20-something, I didn’t know much about this disease and didn’t understand why Auntie Gilda had to live in a nursing home and didn’t recognize me when I came to call. She was my mother’s oldest sister by 15 years, more like the grandmother I never had than an aunt, who coddled me as a child and expressed great joy when I took the time to visit her as a young adult.

Heartbroken is too weak of a word to describe how I felt when she looked right through me as I took her hands and said hello in the crowded corridor of the dementia ward.

She was not the first aunt to forget me, and not the last, and my story is not unique as I am among the millions of people who have been left behind by parents, spouses, brothers, sisters, and in some cases children who are afflicted with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

This is a disease shrouded in hopelessness, where little can be done to cure, prevent, or stall its progression.

It’s a primary concern of the elderly: Will I get Alzheimer’s? My mother, father, sister, brother, grandmother had it. Am I next?

It’s a worry of those with aging parents: Mom seems forgetful. Is it Alzheimer’s?

When memory problems surface, even simple problems like searching for familiar words, forgetting an acquaintance’s name, misplacing the car keys again, the thought train that maybe it’s Alzheimer’s starts roaring down the tracks.

All of this is usually needless worry as many of these behaviors are normal, natural, and no cause for concern. They could be symptoms of a medical problem unrelated to any dementia. Still, some of us stay up nights worrying: What if it’s Alzheimer’s?

Which is why it’s important to include a memory check as part of your annual physical. Healthcare providers recommend routine screenings for a variety of conditions: hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and cancers such as skin, colorectal, breast and prostate. A memory check is another exam you should do annually, to make sure your cognitive function is intact.

November 1-7 is National Memory Screening Week, and a great time to not only perform this check for yourself but for your loved ones, especially your elders, who may be experiencing cognitive decline. Memory screenings are for those concerned about memory loss or those experiencing warning signs of cognitive decline, whether or not there is a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s. If friends or family are making comments about your mental acuity, a screening may be beneficial, whether you take one at your physician’s office, your local senior center, or at home.

Heartbroken

If you’re asking yourself any of the following questions, it’s time for a screening:

Am I becoming more forgetful?

Do I have trouble concentrating?

Do I have difficulty performing familiar tasks?

Do I have trouble recalling words or names in conversation?

Do I sometimes forget where I am or where I am going?

Have family or friends told me that I am repeating questions or repeating myself?

Am I misplacing things more often?

Have I become lost when walking or driving?

Have my family or friends noticed changes in my mood, behavior, personality, or desire to do things?

Early diagnosis is crucial in the treatment of memory impairment, as many conditions are reversible. But without proper medical care, situations can escalate and lead to serious decline or other conditions that may adversely impact one’s health.

Your healthcare provider (physician, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant) can administer a screening test, and many community organizations do so through the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Self-administered at-home tests are another option. These tests take only minutes and may help determine if further investigation is needed. However, these tests should never be a substitute for a professional medical evaluation if one suspects cognitive impairment or decline. Proper medical evaluation of potential memory issues includes a consultation with a physician, a complete physical exam, a thorough review of health history, and diagnostic tests.

At the very least, simple at-home screening tests can open up dialogue, and introduce important discussions about what can happen if dementia or Alzheimer’s strikes, and how individuals prefer to be treated if it does.

Schedule a memory screening test with your healthcare provider this week, or visit Community Memory Screening and Awareness-Raising Education: The Road to Early Detection and Care (AFA C.A.R.E.S.) to find a local screening center in your community.

Brain Health

Some popular memory tests are:

The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE), a 10-15 minute, 4-page, paper and pen test offered by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

The Mini-Cog Test for Alzheimer’s and Dementia, a simple three minute test that is useful in detecting mild cognitive impairment, dementia, or an early stage of Alzheimer’s.

Talking about memory issues and Alzheimer’s can be difficult. One way to open a discussion is through reading. Here are five titles, including my own, that can help start a conversation about memory concerns:

Alzheimer’s Daughter, Jean Lee

On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s, Greg O’Brien

Somebody Stole My Iron: A Family Memoir of Dementia, Vicki Tapia

hat Flowers Remember, Shannon Wiersbitzky

Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story, Marianne Sciucco

Additional Resources:

The Alzheimer’s Association

Visit our Face Book page, Ending the Isolation of Alzheimer’s

About Marianne Sciucco

I’m not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, I dreamed of becoming an author when I grew up but became a nurse to avoid poverty. I later brought my two passions together and write about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. I grew up near Boston and earned my Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. I spend a lot of time on Cape Cod. I also survived nursing school and when not writing work as a campus nurse at a community college in New York’s Hudson Valley, where I live with my patient and reliable husband and beautiful, brainy daughter. We are ruled by Mr. Chance, a cat we rescued who thinks he rescued us. I’m currently working on a YA novel, “Swim Season,” about the new girl on the team who challenges a longstanding school record, to be released in 2015. A dedicated Swim Mom for ten years, you can find me during swim season at one of many Skyline Conference swim meets cheering for my daughter and her team. 25:00!

You may connect with Marianne on her website, Face Book as well as on Twitter

12 Responses to “What if it’s ? Quit Worrying and Get a Memory Check During National Memory Screening Week.”

  1. mariannesciucco November 23, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing my story, Onisha. I appreciate the readers’ comments. The loss of memory is a frightening possibility, and many people may choose not to know if they have Alz or dementia, fearing there’s nothing that can be done. In some cases, they’re right. If the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s nothing can be done; there is no cure. But if one is experiencing memory issues a proper medical test is imperative to rule out – and possibly correct – other causes of memory failure. At the very least, plans can be made for long-term care and the protection of assets prior to complete loss of faculties. With 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s and the numbers growing, we cannot afford to be afraid to get a routine memory check.

    Like

  2. Author Tamie Dearen November 9, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

    Excellent reminder. We’re dealing with it right now, and the thought being “next” terrifies me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Old Things R New November 9, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

      One of our local doctors experienced a temporary Alzheimer’s type episode. She said the thing she needed the most was to feel loved.

      Like

  3. dianequicksilvernovels November 9, 2015 at 11:51 am #

    As we get older, this particular ailment is very frightening. I had no idea there were memory tests to help diagnose the affliction. I watched an informative TV program once that claimed memory was helped by learning new skills or using the opposite hand in everyday tasks to stimulate different parts of the brain. Since authors must learn new stuff all the time, perhaps that will help us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Old Things R New November 9, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

      Authors like you certainly do learn new things all the time. : )

      Like

    • kennamckinnon November 9, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

      Did you ever watch the movie “Iris” about the English Dame Iris Murdoch, the acclaimed author who developed Alzheimer’s. There is a lot of information out there, most conflicting, and I honestly don’t think anything can be done. We’re living longer.

      It used to be called “senility” and has always been with the elderly.

      I don’t think it pays to worry, Diane, really, what good does it do? Just eat well, keep fit, watch your weight and exercise, and think positively. Learn new things all the time, it can’t hurt.

      “Iris” was an excellent movie, sad and heartwarming at the same time. Her husband cared for her until the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. elysesalpeter November 8, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

    I actually worry about my husband to be honest. His grandparents both had Alzheimer’s and it’s so scary to think this can happen to him. I give him little memory tests without him knowing, and thankfully he’s passing, but I get worried at times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kennamckinnon November 9, 2015 at 11:26 am #

      Couldn’t find a place to comment, Marianne, but I found this post rather scary. I’m 71 and I think it’s natural to forget names and what I did Tuesday at my age, no dementia in my family. I tend not to worry, it won’t help, and I like to soldier on or soar on, as the case may be, and not worry about what may happen in the future. It must be a worry for those affected, though. A friend of mine definitely has a form of dementia and it is something he’s aware of, very disturbing, but there’s nothing that can be done, so I just talk to him and we laugh and have a good time, and I bring him rice and beans, which he likes. He’s in the extended care of a long term hospital for a physical problem, but he will never be released due to his cognitive decline as well as physical problem. It’s important to remain positive, I think.

      Like

  5. Old Things R New November 3, 2015 at 9:32 am #

    Thank you for sharing this Marianne. The tests could be helpful or fear inducing, depending on one’s personality. I am hopeful that a cure will be coming soon.

    Like

  6. divoran09 November 3, 2015 at 7:20 am #

    The post on dementia is excellent. It strikes nerves that don’t even want to be touched. I’d like your personal opinion on all this. You are so wise.

    Liked by 1 person

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