Alzheimer’s Disease affects approximately six million Americans to date, and is the most common form of dementia. To be so common, there is not yet a cure, nor is there an exact science for total …
Alzheimer’s Disease affects approximately six million Americans to date, and is the most common form of dementia. To be so common, there is not yet a cure, nor is there an exact science for total prevention. There are measures to prevent Alzheimer’s though, and one of the first steps is knowing whether memory loss is severe enough to be the onslaught of Alzheimer’s or if it is just natural memory loss due to aging.
TESTING 1, 2, 3, sponsored by GlenLakes Golf Club, is a local volunteer group made up of retired nurses and concerned citizens that offers free memory screenings and balance testing during special dates around Baldwin County. The group came into existence when Sam Strite realized a number of missing persons in the area were people who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Upon further study, he came into contact with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s National Memory Screening Program in 2015. The only available area in Alabama for free memory screenings was in Huntsville, and Strite wanted to change that. He contacted AFA about starting a group in South Baldwin County.
“We now have 80 volunteers who support our screening efforts,” Strite said. “Balance testing was added to our program in 2016 when a physical therapist came to volunteer with us and pointed out that falling is a major problem for seniors, and she set up that part of the program.”
The AFA recommends using medical professionals to perform the memory screenings, and TESTING 1, 2, 3 relies on a number of retired nurses, dental technicians, pharmacists, caregivers, and many others who come from a medical background to conduct the screenings. Other volunteers work as greeters, welcoming people when they come inside and explaining the process to them.
Both the memory screening and the balance testing take around eight minutes each, and both can be done during the same session. When people arrive, they’re welcome to ask the greeters any questions they may have before filling out a short survey for statistic purposes: no personal information will be taken or kept, and everything is confidential. Then the memory screening, balance testing, or both will be conducted.
“More often than not people pass the memory screening, and any memory loss is just a result of aging,” said Strite. “But if someone does fail the test, then we fill out a form with the results of their test for them to take when they go see their doctor. If they’re with someone, a spouse or a child or friend, then we’ll talk to that person as well and let them know the next steps.”
When the group first began, they tested around 200 people annually. Now, they’re up to 517 annual memory screenings performed, with 475 balance tests performed. The average age for those tested is 71, though it’s important to be screened at any age. While most symptoms of Alzheimer’s begin showing later in life, they can actually begin much earlier. So what are some factors to helping prevent Alzheimer’s from occurring? Recent studies show that eating healthy, exercising regularly, reducing stress, and staying mentally active all help. Strite encourages people to remain social and not to wait until the age of 60 before working towards preventing Alzheimer’s.
“Keep up with memory screenings, it’s part of your whole health program,” he said. “Doctors are now testing patient’s memory and their brain activity because of the importance of the brain; it affects your whole life. Protect it.”
Strite hopes to spread screenings even further across Baldwin County in the future as the group increases in numbers.
“It’s very satisfying for our volunteers,” Strite said. “When people leave they are so thankful. They either know something isn’t wrong with them, or they know the next steps. They’re very appreciative of what services we offer, and we hope to offer even more in the future.”
TESTING 1, 2, 3 is currently working to bring on hearing checks as part of their services. For anyone looking to volunteer, stop by any screening event and ask the greeters for more info, or call or email Strite at 251-965-5122 or email@example.com.
The next free screenings will be: Friday, Jan. 17, at the Bodenhamer Center (310 West 19th Avenue, Gulf Shores) from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m.; Wednesday, Jan. 22 at Foley Civic Center from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 14 at the Orange Beach Senior Center (26251 Canal Road) from 1 - 4 p.m.; and Wednesday, Feb. 19 at the Gulf Shores Cultural Center, Building C (19470 Oak Road) from 12 - 3 p.m.