McLean Hospital to Offer Free Memory Screenings (Nov 15)

Early detection of memory loss makes it easier to manage symptoms and plan for the future

October 26, 2005

Adriana Bobinchock
Public Affairs

Belmont, MA - Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting about 10 percent of people aged 65 and older. While there is no cure for it, there are medical treatments that mitigate its symptoms, according to James Ellison, MD, clinical director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Program at McLean Hospital.

Some memory changes may accompany normal agingóbut because memory problems may indicate the presence of early Alzheimer's disease or another medical disorder, Ellison and other McLean Hospital clinicians will offer free memory screenings on Tuesday, Nov. 15 from 1 pm to 5 pm at the Belmont Senior Center, 23 Oakley Road, Belmont.

"Severe memory loss is not a normal sign of aging," said Ellison. "Forgetting the name of an old acquaintance whom you haven't seen for a long time or occasionally misplacing something may not represent a significant problem; however, forgetting entire experiences, being unable to follow directions and having difficulty communicating are likely to represent a condition in need of medical attention."

An estimated 120,000 Massachusetts residents are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a number that is expected to climb to 140,000 over the next 20 years, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Ellison encourages interested people over the age of 55 to attend the upcoming screening if they find themselves becoming more forgetful than usual, have increasing difficulty concentrating, performing familiar tasks, recalling words or names in conversation or forgetting where they are. "It can be scary to admit that you have a memory problem, but early intervention can be important where an actual medical problem is present," he said.

Ellison emphasized that not all memory loss is associated with Alzheimer's disease. "Memory loss may be caused by a number of treatable conditions, such as depression, medication side effects, certain medical conditions and nutritional imbalances, so it's important that people take an active, preventive role in maintaining their memory health," he noted.

The free screenings take less then 15 minutes to conduct and consist of questions and tasks that are designed to test memory, language skills, thinking ability and other intellectual functions. Screening results are confidential but can be shared with primary care physicians if permission is given.

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