In conjunction with National Memory Screening Day, on Tuesday, November 13, 2012, sponsored by the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, Mardy Chizek of CharismŽ Eldercare Services recommends that family caregivers take memory loss seriously and have senior family members tested.
Memory screenings make sense for anyone concerned about memory loss or experiencing warning signs of dementia; whose family and friends have noticed changes in them; or who believe they are at risk due to a family history of Alzheimer's disease or a related illness. Screenings also are appropriate for anyone who does not have a concern right now, but who wants to see how their memory is now and for future comparisons.
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"Dementing illnesses are chronic, terminal conditions, with a variety of underlying causes. In some instances, confusion is reversible and is due to another medical condition that could be attributed to something as simple as a hearing loss or medication side effects. Mental confusion is not always due to the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. A healthcare practitioner should be consulted for assessment and treatment if necessary," recommends Chizek, an RN and president of CharismŽ Eldercare Services in Westmont, Illinois.
As part of taking the initiative on memory screening, if you suspect a senior has severe memory loss, Chizek suggests that you speak to your healthcare practitioner about having a neuropsychological assessment performed on the senior family member. This testing will provide the team with information about the areas of the brain that are affected and the severity of the disease. Having this information helps define how to best tailor the conversation with the senior by maximizing their strengths.
"From the time we are toddlers, we begin the journey of self-direction. The senior has a lifetime of experience that is often hidden by the dementing condition. As loving advocates, our role is to help gain access to that information. Seniors with significant memory loss can often still participate in significant decisions about their care," notes Chizek, and adds, "We live our lives with autonomy and dignity and just because we have memory loss does not mean that we no longer have those needs."