By PHYLLIS HODGES
Of all senior maladies, there is one that is right up there with the scariest of them all—the fear of losing precious memories.
Here in the Tampa Bay area, we are fortunate to have access to the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute at the University of South Florida. It is the country’s largest free-standing facility dedicated to research and care of people with Alzheimer’s and related memory disorders. They are continuously striving to find new ways to conduct clinical trials aimed at finding that next big breakthrough for preventing or treating dementia.
All stages of memory loss are represented by the various trial participants; some have no loss at all. Acknowledging the ongoing, crucial need for trial volunteers—and the fact that many potential participants may lack transportation, Byrd Institute recently put into service a mobile research suite. Dr. Jill Smith, assistant director of clinical research, is excited about the customized medical clinic. “We could not be prouder of this unit, for the exceptional mobile health care unit we designed and our ability to bring some of the leading international prevention research programs in memory loss right to your doorstep. We look forward to working with the South Shore community,” she said.
The unit will be in Sun City Center monthly starting with an introductory visit on Monday, April 10. Residents in SCC and surrounding communities are invited to attend a 1 p.m. presentation by Dr. Smith at Sun Towers Retirement Community, 101 Trinity Lakes Drive, and to tour the mobile unit. The presentation will be held in Sun Towers’ new 70-seat multi-purpose theater; the mobile unit will be in the back parking lot.
The 53-foot-long clinic will be staffed by clinical experts who can do everything from memory evaluation and EKGs to giving out trial medicine. It features a reception area, patient exam room, two testing rooms and an area for blood draws. The plan is to travel to communities within a 90-mile radius of Tampa, staying several days in each location.
Debbie Caneen, president of the South Shore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging in SCC, said that the coalition is a close ally of Byrd Institute. About 20 of the group’s members were trained as part of the Byrd Institute Community-Based Memory Screening Program to become volunteer screeners, and this more convenient accessibility will make their participation easier. She said that the coalition has been proactive in providing information about memory care and credited a grant by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay which helps defray expenses.
Anyone interested in a screening is encouraged to call the coalition office at 813-419-4902 to make an appointment. Screenings currently take place at Valencia Lakes, Sun Towers, United Methodist Church of Sun City Center, Kings Point and Aston Gardens Courtyards.
There is no charge for screenings, nor is there any charge for participation in any of Byrd Institute’s clinical trials, including medications. To schedule appointments or learn more about the clinical trials, call Dr. Smith at 813-974-1294 or visit health.usf.edu/byrd.
Reservations for the April 10 presentation and tour are not required. Attendees are encouraged to use the free valet parking service at the Sun Towers main entrance. For more information, e-mail email@example.com.