"Am I losing my memory?"

It's a question that can start as young as 50 and persist throughout the rest of a person's life.

It's a fear and a possible major downside of growing older.

Despite the evidence "80 is now 70" and "70 is now 60," sensitivity about declining memory still damages peace-of-mind and affects health.

Occasional forgetfulness about names, losing keys and misplacing glasses is normal behavior at a certain age, but could be a sign of something more serious.

Depression, anxiety, stress and insomnia often result in lapses of memory.

Ignoring the situation doesn't work. If there actually is a problem, the sooner it can be treated, the better.

An expert in the field, Dr. Susann Varano, is conducting memory assessment screenings at Candlewood Valley Health and Rehabilitation Center in New Milford.

In addition to being an academic physician, Varano is director of the Elder Horizons Program at Yale-New Haven Hospital, a clinical research investigator in Milford and assistant clinical professor at Yale University

She has done hundreds of memory assessments.

"Some of the people we see just need someone to talk to," she said. "Depression often affects memory."

The memory screenings are free, take about 40 minutes, and are confidential.

"Very often I find that what is perceived as memory loss is actually the result of stress or persistent anxiety and the screening itself can decrease worry," Varano said.

Cindy LaCour, director of social services at Candlewood Valley, who assists Varano, said when people are told their memory is normal, "They visibly are relieved."

"You can tell from their body language that a burden has been lifted," she said.

During an appointment, Varano will speak with the patient to get to know them and ask a series of questions that involve memory and the basic activities of daily life, with certain tasks that measure cognitive ability.

Each question and task has a point score to indicate the patient's memory level.

"I don't diagnose or tell anyone what to do," Varano said. "If further observation is needed, I can suggest the most appropriate and respected resources to investigate, but that's totally up to the patient."

Patients will receive a six-month follow up questionnaire and a follow up screening if necessary.

For more information or to schedule an appointment at the 30 Park Lane East center, call the intake coordinator at 1-866-695-9627.