Seniors Offered Free Dementia Test


You write things on a list so you won’t forget them, and then you forget the list. Is it Alzheimer’s Disease, or the absentmindedness of normal aging?

A team from Cogniciti, an international firm studying ways to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, will be at the Londonderry Senior Center this coming Tuesday morning to pre-test area seniors for potential dementia conditions. The Canada-based organization will test seniors for free, and place those eligilble in a data bank for further testing and clinical trials.

Michael Mahar, president and CEO of the company, said in a phone interview that the company had its origins through Baycrest, Canada’s largest geriatric hospital and research facility for cognitive issues in mid-and older adults. Six years ago, a number of factors converged, according to Mahar. First, doctors were seeing more of the aging population worried about memory concerns. Some of these concerns were unfounded, but the time taken to assess this took away from time spent on seniors with valid cognitive problems. “The people who need to get in, can’t get in,” Mahar said.

Third, from a research perspective, scientists have shifted away from trying to find a “cure” for Alzheimer’s, he said, and are working instead on early detection and prevention. The pharmaceutical industry has changed its focus. “They haven’t found a cure, so they are working instead on a concentrated effort to prevent the disease.”

“We needed to find a better way, and also to reassure the ‘worried well,'” Mahar said.

Recent research has come up with ways to delay or prevent dementia, using techniques such as exercise, eating right and stress management, he said. “There are many things you can do now,” he said of seniors. “It all comes down to lifestyle choices.”

But in order to refine this, the industry needs adults in a pre-dementia state, he said. “We need to find volunteers who are currently healthy but at risk,” he said.

While popular magazines and the Internet offer quizzes purporting to predict Alzheimer’s, these are not based on scientific fact, Mahar said. But a scientifically-developed screening test can identify those at risk, he said. “It’s like a blood pressure cuff for the brain,” Mahar explained.

Across Canada, 50,000 people have taken the 20-minute test either online or in public settings, according to Mahar. They decided to put the test to work in southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts, he said.

Pharmacists are developing a new class of drugs for people at risk for dementia, he said, with 37 formulas currently on the books. But there aren’t enough volunteers for the clinical trials, he said, so they’re bringing the program to the States.

“We want to see these drugs succeed more quickly or fail more quickly,” he said.

To do this, they  are taking their quest to community centers and senior centers, he said.

Seniors are invited to take the test on Cogniciti-provided laptops, with technical assistance if necessary, he said. The staff will explain the results, and give qualified candidates the opportunity to belong to a registry.

“For people who are at risk, this is a wonderful opportunity,” Mahar said.

The testing is free, he said. If a senior proves eligible for a clinical trial and agrees to do it, their expenses will be paid, he said.

A team from Cognociti will test area seniors Tuesday, March 28, from 9 to 11 a.m. in the Londonderry Senior Center. The service is free. For more information, call Cathy Blash at 432-8554.


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