Assessing Your Brain Health: It's a Family Affair

Posted on:

When you first meet Laguna Beach resident, David Johnson (DJ), his upbeat personality and positive attitude is immediately apparent. Equally transparent is his fondness toward his father, Ken. “He is my best friend and a much better tennis player than I will ever be,” says DJ.

Ken is an active 83-year old Corona del Mar resident who enjoys playing tennis and lifting weights, but recently experienced symptoms of memory loss. With Hoag’s help, DJ and Ken gained important information regarding their cognitive health that proved to be beneficial to them both.

For the past 22 years, Ken has been an integral part of DJ’s successful team working with Orange County’s developmentally disabled citizens. Recently, DJ noticed changes in his dad’s behavior at work. “He started repeating himself and his memory seemed to decline,” recalls DJ. “At first it was frustrating, but I soon realized something was wrong.”
DJ took Ken to his primary care physician who prescribed medication to keep Ken’s symptoms under control. The medication was helping Ken with his symptoms, however, shortly after his 50th birthday, David began thinking about his own cognitive health.

“My family and I used to joke about memory because I can recall things that happened when I was five and six years old,” says DJ. “But I knew my dad was dealing with memory issues so it heightened my awareness and concern about my own health.” That’s when DJ learned about the Orange County Vital Aging Program through Hoag Neurosciences Institute.

Hoag Neurosciences started a comprehensive approach to combat the community’s fear of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders (ADRD) through the Orange County Vital Aging Program* (OCVAP) launched in 2010, under the direction of William R. Shankle, M.S., M.D., F.A.C.P., program director, Memory & Cognitive Disorders, Hoag Neurosciences Institute.

The Orange County Vital Aging Program includes:

  • Free public educational seminars
  • Website and online resources to identify, track and reduce ADRD risk factors
  • Free in-person memory assessment at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach and Oasis Senior Center (other locations coming soon)
  • Physician and community resources
  • Free monthly e-newsletter with the latest information on ADRD, news and upcoming events

“The design of the program encourages the community, primary care physicians, and specialists to work together to proactively address this growing concern, and to help counter the assumptions that nothing can be done to delay the impact of Alzheimer’s disease,” states Dr. Shankle.

DJ took both his mom and dad to Hoag Neurosciences Institute to be screened as a family. “I realized the sooner ADRD is detected and properly treated, the better the chances were for a recovery. It was a relief for all of us,” states DJ. “The unknown was a little scary,
so it was nice to have solid information and resources available.”

DJ and Ken still work together and remain best friends. They plan to be re-tested annually to track their progress. “Everyone over the age of 50 should take advantage of this unique program,” says DJ. “It’s important to get your family and loved ones involved, even if it’s just for your own peace of mind.”

The OCVAP recommends a three-step process to assess your brain health:
1. Register online at and take the self assessment.
2. Take an in-person assessment with a participating physician or at Hoag.
3. Repeat in one year to track your progress.

To access the self-assessment tools, for more information on OCVAP, or to schedule a free in-person assessment, visit or call 949/764-6288.

* The OCVAP is supported by a grant to Hoag Neurosciences Institute from UniHealth Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic organization whose mission is to support and facilitate activities that significantly improve the health and well being of individuals and communities within its service area.