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Memories challenged in annual test

By Julianne Hanckel

Publication: The Day

Published November 14. 2012 4:00AM   Updated November 14. 2012 11:44PM

Waterford - As part of National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, nearly two dozen residents participated in a memory screening event Tuesday, getting results that would either cause in a sigh of relief or a future trip to the doctor.

Waterford was one of 2,000 sites across the country participating in the National Memory Screening Day event, an annual initiative of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.

"There are people that will walk out of here saying, 'I'm OK, maybe I just need to get more sleep or lower my stress levels,' while others may need to make a follow-up with their doctors," Senior Services Director Sally Ritchie said.

"We're asking our brains to remember more and more details than ever before."

Memory screening participants arriving at the Community Center were asked whether they came for the screening or another reason. Responses included, "I forgot what I'm here for" and "I don't remember." Some answers were jokes, others were not.

Lynn Turnquist came to her first screening event Tuesday morning, and wasn't sure what to expect.

Turnquist, 65, was asked to state the date, a recent news event and an address. She was also asked to draw a clock with correct spacing between the hours, showing the time at 11:10.

"We do the screenings as reassurance for people because there's such an awareness now with this disease that maybe why you're not remembering isn't related to Alzheimer's but diet, depression, stress or lack of sleep," Ritchie said.

"The people that come in for screenings are really brave, because finding out that you may have signs of a genetic disease or disorder, I mean, do you really want to know that?"

Turnquist requested that her score and answers remain confidential, but University of Connecticut School of Nursing student Jessica Van Ingen said Turnquist did a "good job."

Patients are scored on a scale of zero to nine. Van Ingen said that those with a score of five or lower should make an "immediate" appointment with their regular doctors for future diagnosis.

UConn School of Nursing Clinical Instructor Jenelle Fiano supervised the nursing students during the event and said the diagnostic test is just one screening tool used to determine cognitive impairments.

"The only drawback to this is that the patients have to follow up with the doctors themselves, but at least this will make them aware that there is a problem," she said.

To help exercise the brain, the town's Community Center offers a class called Cranial Conundrum every Thursday at 11 a.m. It consists of puzzles, word and number games.

For information about Alzheimer's Disease and its warning signs, visit: www.alzfdn.org.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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