Most people experience a little forgetfulness now and then but for those who believe it has gone beyond that, a memory screening may be in order. And thanks to Sunflower Diversified Services, the screenings will be offered locally this month.
Sunflower has taken the initiative to offer this free service to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19 at the Great Bend Senior Center, 2005 Kansas Ave. This is in conjunction with National Memory Screening Day, proclaimed by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA).
Sunflower, which serves people with developmental disabilities and delays, is volunteering its time and manpower for this national effort. It is co-sponsoring the screenings with the Great Bend Recreation Commission, as well as the Senior Center.
“Central Kansans who have any concern about memory loss, or a family history of memory loss are encouraged to participate,” said Ladeska “Decky” Makings, Sunflower chief operating officer. “While the results will not offer a specific diagnosis, they can indicate that a follow-up with a physician may be appropriate.”
Brandi Demel, Sunflower’s full-time registered nurse, will conduct the screenings, which take 5 to 10 minutes and entail a few questions and tasks.
For example, a person may be asked to draw a clock that indicates a certain time and repeat five words after hearing them. All results are confidential.
“I really hope people take advantage of this opportunity,” Demel commented, noting she has long-term-care experience. “I have cared for many people who could have benefited from knowing more about memory loss earlier in life.”
Memory screenings are increasingly important as the Baby Boomers get older, Makings and Demel noted. A recent AFA survey indicated that 92 percent of those polled had never been screened and 83 percent who were concerned about memory loss hadn’t talked to their doctor about it.
“A screening can be a first step toward finding out where you stand and what, if any, additional steps you should take,” Demel said. “Some memory problems, such as those caused by vitamin deficiencies or thyroid issues, are readily treatable and even curable.
“While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s,” she continued, “early intervention can improve quality of life and medications may slow the progression.”
Warning signs of Alzheimer’s include forgetting people’s names and events, asking repetitive questions, loss of verbal or written skills, confusion and personality changes.
Sunflower staff members are increasingly aware of Alzheimer’s because the agency’s clients are living longer, healthier lives, Makings said.
“We keep careful watch on everyone and when it comes to Alzheimer’s, we are extra vigilant of those with Down syndrome,” Makings said. “Research shows that over 90 percent of those with Down syndrome will develop some form of brain change associated with Alzheimer’s. Thirty percent will get the disease itself.
“Sunflower also is aware that those with Down syndrome are often affected in their thirties and forties – much younger than the general population,” Makings added.
Sunflower is one of the few agencies in Kansas that provides the services of a full-time registered nurse, Makings noted. “Each person deserves this individual care and attention,” she said.
Sunflower serves infants, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.