Memory Screening Can Extend Quality of Life
BY DIANE WILTJER
Special to The Pilot
If our memories aren't as sharp as they used to be, we shouldn't despair. We have lots of company.
As Dr. Sangeeta Varanasi, the head of the Pinehurst Medical Clinic's Geriatric and Memory Disorders Clinic explains it: "Our brains become less efficient after we pass 30, and it may take us longer to retrieve a 'file,' something we'd like to remember in the short term.
"For example, a friend's name, what we went into the other room for or where we parked the car at the mall. But, if the answer eventually pops into our minds, there probably isn't a significant problem. It's when the file seems to be erased - we simply can't remember - that we may have a memory problem that needs to be evaluated and treated."
Even when our memories seem to be intact, Varanasi recommends that people avail themselves of a memory screening in their late 60s or early 70s - earlier if there is a family history of dementia or a decline in short-term memory.
A typical 45-minute screening will establish a baseline for the future.
"If a problem is found, early diagnosis, and treatment is crucial to maintaining a meaningful quality of life," cautions Varanasi, who is Board-certified in both internal and geriatric medicine.
She explains that while there are medications to effectively halt or slow the progression of the disease and its symptoms, there is not a drug that will reverse them.
"Once symptoms become moderate-to-severe in nature, they cannot be reversed to the mild stage," she says.
A living example of how an early diagnosis can extend one's quality of life is Richard Taylor, a practicing psychologist and college professor, before he was diagnosed with dementia, "probably of the Alzheimer's type," when he was only 58.
Taylor believes that brain monitoring should begin at 50. In his book, "Alzheimer's From the Inside Out," he writes, "Every year, we ask physicians to check out our hearts, our livers, our prostates, and/or our breasts, and our eyes, but we almost universally neglect to check our brains."
Now 66, Taylor is still in the mild-to-moderate stage of the disease. He credits his early diagnosis and his new life's purpose with making this possible.
Advocating for folks like himself, he travels the globe to speak with medical professionals, caregivers, anyone who cares about folks who live with the label of dementia.
When he's not speaking to groups, he's usually in front of his computer dictating book or newsletter copy into his voice recognition software.
His message is simple: Folks like himself are still whole, unique people with varying personalities and capabilities who need to be enabled to be all that they can be and not disabled by a public mentality that lumps all people with the disease as coming out of the same mold of needs, interests, and abilities.
Certainly Taylor's DVD, "Be With Me Today," defies the stereotype of what one might expect from someone who was diagnosed with dementia more than eight years ago.
Its message is so powerful that it prompted Bill M., whose wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about two years ago, to write this note to a friend, "You have changed our lives by letting me know about his philosophy...I was the one who had to change, not Nancy. By my adopting Taylor's approach of loving and accepting her as she is now, not the way she was in the past, it has taken the stress off both of us."
This DVD is available for viewing at FirstHealth of the Carolinas Health Sciences Library which is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Library staff members Daniel Oates and Suzanne Sinclair say they invite the public to benefit from the library's vast resources of audiovisuals, books, journals, medical databases, and even a lending library which contains many health-related books, including Alzheimer's disease and other conditions and diseases.
Those wishing to receive a copy of Taylor's monthly newsletter may contact him at richardtaylorphd.com or on his Web site www.richardtaylorphd.com.
The DVD is also available from www.HaveAGoodLife.com.
Diane Wiltjer may be contacted at TipsOnThriving@aol.com.
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