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Glenmeadow to host dementia early detection program on Feb. 24

Date: 2/5/2015

LONGMEADOW – Glenmeadow Retirement will host a program about detecting the early signs of dementia and where individuals should go for diagnosis and treatment on Feb. 24 at 9 a.m.

“Signs and Signals: Helping Families Navigate Early-Stage Dementia,” will be presented by Susan Megas, coordinator of Baystate Health’s memory disorders program. She will also give advice on helping informal caregivers, family members, and friends of individuals with dementia.

Megas told Reminder Publications the program will focus on clarifying information about dementia.

“The question on everyone’s mind as they age and as they become forgetful is, ‘Is this the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease, do I have a dementia?’ Everyone’s very worried about that and even though the Internet provides us with a lot of information, there’s a lot of misinformation out there as well.”

Megas said she will be walking people through the program through the use of case examples.

“I’ve developed a patient who I call Peggy and we’re going to follow her course through the beginning stages of her forgetfulness and then what you do with that, what she and her family do with her suggestive compliance, to the point where we now have a final answer to why she’s having these memory problems,” Megas added.

One of the main focuses of the program will be the normal level of cognitive aging versus what may be the early signs of dementia, she said.

“There is such a thing called the forgetfulness of aging,” Megas added. “It’s normal. So, I’m going to help people understand that as we grow older, the normal aging process is associated with declines in certain cognitive abilities such as processing speeds, aspects of our memory, language, visualization functions, and executive functions.”

One of the tipping points when “senior moments” might be considered early signs of dementia is routine forgetful moments, she noted.

“Very often I hear people say things like, ‘My mother goes to her hair dresser every week. It’s right around the corner. It’s less than five miles away from her house and I got a call the other day from her hair dresser because my mother was two hours late to her appointment,” Megas said.

The memory program at Bay State Medical Center is a multi-disciplinary program and the only one of it’s kind in the region, she noted.

“It’s neurology neuropsychology, psychiatry, and myself as an advanced practice doctorally prepared nurse, who interviews and triages everybody and I’m with families for years after we have completed our evaluation,” Megas added. “We have people come in who are having cognitive impairments, meaning problems with memory and reasoning and executive function, and some of those people are actually having behavioral problems, which [could be] hallucinations.”

Most likely when someone has the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, “hallucinations are not usually a part of the picture,” she said.

“If somebody, however, is coming in with mild cognitive changes that may be the beginning stages of early dementia,” Megas explained. “And [if someone] also has these things like hallucinations [and] paranoid thinking, it makes you think about something other than just an Alzheimer’s disease. It can be Alzheimer’s plus a psychiatric illness or it could be a variation of Alzheimer’s.”

A large number of elderly people also have chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiac issues, which means that their health could be compromised with dementia because they might forget important medications or health issues, she said.

“All of these things have to be taken into account when you see somebody in front of you whose family is saying, ‘Mom is just not herself,’” Megas added.