Charles J. Fuschillo, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Foundation,...

Charles J. Fuschillo, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Foundation, urges memory screening during a news conference at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

An Oceanside hospital conducted free testing Tuesday for community residents wondering whether they had memory problems that could be an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

At a news conference next door to the screening room at South Nassau Communities Hospital, officials spoke about the need for early screening for a disease that is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

An estimated 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, “and there is a new diagnosis of the disease every 60 seconds,” said Dr. Adhi Sharma, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

“That number is expected to double as our baby boomers age. By 2050 they expect one diagnosis every 33 seconds,” he said.

About 75 people signed up for the screening, which was confidential. People who went through the 10- to 15-minute screening were asked questions and given a numerical score based on a variety of factors.

Those with a low score were encouraged to visit their primary care doctor for a fuller examination. Hospital officials would not discuss results, citing confidentiality rules.

Charles J. Fuschillo, a former state senator from the South Shore who is president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, said it was important for people to know that the disease was not a normal part of aging and pre-screening was the best way to detect it early.

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“We want clinicians to believe that this should be a normal process of a routine checkup,” Fuschillo said at the news conference.

“Some people take better care of their cars. They change the oil every 3,000 miles. Some people do get an annual physical but if you ask them how many physicians check their brain, check their memory as part of a healthy checkup, many don’t,” he said.

Joanne Newcombe, a registered nurse and hospital vice president for community health and development, said she wants to make the pre-screening process a part of the hospital’s relationship with 25 nursing homes in the area.

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