Hyattsville Aging in Place holds memory screening to address issues of memory loss

Hyattsville Aging in Place hosts many events each year for seniors living in the city, including a Memory Screening Day last month. Photo courtesy of Shani Warner

By KATIE WALSH — Hyattsville Aging in Place, a nonprofit dedicated to enabling residents to stay in their homes as they age, collaborated with the City of Hyattsville to offer free, confidential memory screenings at the city building on Nov. 9 — the first time the service has been offered in the city.

Memory Awareness Day was part of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month as well as an effort sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America to provide memory screenings at locations across the country. Hyattsville Aging in Place (HAP) also worked with Dementia Friendly America’s Prince George’s County chapter to organize the screenings. In Hyattsville, a full schedule of 26 people were tested using the Brief Alzheimer’s Screen, a short survey that can indicate whether a participant should see a doctor for further examination, said Denise Snyder, a board member for HAP.

“For any adult as they age, the issue of dementia is a cloud that hangs out there,” Snyder said.

Snyder said she and another volunteer were trained by the Alzheimer’s Foundation on how to conduct the screenings. HAP had to extend screening hours to accommodate more people after the event’s initial slots were quickly filled. In fact, the memory screening was so popular that HAP is considering ways to continue offering the service, Snyder said.

“We’ve really tapped into an issue of concern for the residents of Hyattsville,” she said.

Snyder said that memory issues are a natural part of the aging process. She compared the aging of the mind to that of the body, which can “struggle in places it didn’t used to” as it gets older. However, the kind of memory problems that are associated with dementia are at a much different level, she said.

“It’s not just that you can’t remember where you put your keys; it’s that you put them in the refrigerator,” she said.

Snyder stressed that anyone who is worried that they or a loved one is experiencing memory loss should visit their family physician.

Lisa Walker, one of the founders of HAP and a current board member, said 7 percent of the city’s residents are older than 65, a figure that is likely to keep growing as baby boomers age. It’s with this population in mind that HAP was founded in 2011, in part to help mitigate the challenge of finding support services for aging family members.

The organization offers several other services for seniors, Walker said. Volunteers drive seniors to medical appointments and help out with chores such as cleaning or shoveling snow. HAP also puts on various events throughout the year.

HAP has more memory-related events on the horizon, Snyder said. After the New Year, the organization is planning to start “memory cafes,” where those struggling with memory loss can engage in activities such as crafting and making music as well as discussions with listeners sensitive to memory issues. Organizers are actively looking for a location.

Additionally, HAP is planning a fundraiser Dec. 12 at Franklins Restaurant, where 20 percent of the profits will go to the organization. Since HAP is an all-volunteer organization, fundraisers like this are a important for getting the financial resources needed to continue to offer services like memory screenings, Snyder said.

“With dementia, it’s best to know as early as possible so you can take steps to slow it down,” Snyder said. “To ignore it can certainly not help the situation, and may in fact exacerbate it.”