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Alzheimer’s risk grows among people of color

Association strives to help most vulnerable

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For the past year, Camille Wade has served as her father’s primary caregiver.

Her father, Fred, is living with dementia and during the pandemic, Wade said that his condition has deteriorated.

“He used to be very active — he went for lunch, for walks, to church — and then all of that instantly stopped,” Wade said. “I have noticed that he is more bored and depressed. In isolation, he lost some of his vocabulary and reading skills.”

Just like COVID-19, Alzheimer’s and dementia disproportionately impacts communities of color.

• Black people are about twice as likely as whites to have Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Hispanics are 1½ times more likely to have Alzheimer’s.

• Black people are more prone to risk factors for vascular disease — such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — which may also be risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and stroke- related dementia.

• Black people and Hispanics are less likely to have a dementia diagnosis.

When Black people are diagnosed, they are typically diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, when they are more cognitively and physically impaired.

Is this because some lack access to health resources? Is it because of lack of transportation? Is it because of where people live?Is it a trust issue?

There needs to be more research in the area of social determinants of health — the conditions present where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.

At the Alzheimer’s Association, we don’t know all of the answers. But we are intently working to understand how we achieve health equity in dementia because everyone deserves access to early and accurate diagnosis, the best available treatments and the most beneficial caregiver support available.

Research

One example is what the association is doing with its new IDEAS study.

IDEAS stands for imaging dementia — evidence for amyloid scanning, which aims to determine if amyloid PET scans improve diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association has committed that at least 4,000 of 7,000 participants will be Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino, making it one of the most racially and ethnically diverse studies ever launched.

Community partnerships

One of our goals is to reach and engage diverse communities in education, support and other opportunities that are readily available. All of the Alzheimer’s Association’s services are free.

Additionally, on the national level, the association is working with organizations such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the National Hispanic Council on Aging.

Primary care

To dramatically increase the accurate and timely diagnosis of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia, and to significantly increase the number of people who receive affordable, high-quality care and support, the association is pairing dementia experts with physician practices to raise their level of knowledge.

Through Project Echo, physicians can present cases and get coaching from a multidisciplinary clinical team from around the country.

April 20 event

If you want to learn more about our efforts in the area of health equity and Alzheimer’s disease, please join us at 11 a.m. on April 20 for Alzheimer’s in the South: The Latest in Research and Health Equity.

It’s a free virtual event led by Dr. Percy Griffin, director of scientific engagement for the Alzheimer’s Association.

After the presentation, we will host a panel of some of our region’s leading public health experts to discuss COVID-19 caregiving and vaccine delivery. Registration is open for both sessions. Go to alz.org/CRF to sign up.

Dawne Bunn is a regional leader for the Alzheimer’s Association.

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