Emergency support services leader puts brain health to the test

Testing your pandemic brain

As COVID-19 takes its toll on the health of people who have contracted the virus across the globe, it is also exacting a mental health toll as well.

Okanagan Clinical Trials, a medical research clinic in Kelowna, say they have seen an increase in demand for, comprehensive cognitive assessments through its Memory Clinic since the coronavirus pandemic started.

“People are expressing concerns about their memory in record numbers,” said Dr. Kim Christie, president of Okanagan Clinical Trials. “We want anyone that has noticed a change in their ability to focus and retain information or who is concerned about memory loss to contact us and schedule a memory test.”

The memory assessments are free and take about 60-minutes to complete. They can be performed in the clinic or on the phone.

Beryl Itani was the Emergency Support Services Director for the Regional District of Central Okanagan during the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park Wildfire and emergency support services volunteer for over 35 years. She understands the importance of maintaining your composure in an emergency.

After seizing the opportunity for a free memory assessment, Itani found that her experience was educational and entertaining.

“We’d never experienced anything like the 2003 fire before, and you can’t really prepare for it,” Itani said. “I was asked a lot of times how I managed to keep it all together. My answer was always that I went home to my own bed every night and 30,000 of my friends didn’t. During these difficult times, I would suggest the words of Dr. Henry, ‘Be Kind. Be Calm. Be Safe.’”

It's not uncommon for anxiety levels to increase during stressful and uncertain times, and prolonged stress can affect the way the brain processes and stores memories, says Dr. Christie.

“I am pleased with my score. The whole experience was easy and fun, not scary or stressful,” Itani reported. “I am quite happy to come back in a year to get another assessment and would absolutely recommend it to my friends.”

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