There is a growing need for dementia education in under-served and underrepresented communities. Six months into a dementia-education grant from the Office on Aging, more than 500 attendees have attended the seminars I’m conducting in partnership with the Columbia Urban League. This tells us that people are longing for practical dementia education that is not only understandable but relevant, especially to the African-American community.
Alzheimer’s disease has been identified as a public health emergency in the African-American community, where it may be two to three times higher than in non-Hispanic whites. Emerging research suggests that vascular disease may be a key factor in triggering Alzheimer’s in African-Americans, but many people dismiss the warning signs as normal aging. It is important to note that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not a normal part of aging. Early detection is sometimes difficult because of those similarities to normal aging. That’s why learning the signs and symptoms is paramount.
Family caregivers have reported extremely high stress caring for a loved one with dementia. That’s why we’ve developed a dementia-competent education program to offer real-world responses to the most common questions: How do I get mom to take a bath? How do I get dad to remember he already ate? Why doesn’t my wife recognize me?
After going through our seminar series “In Our Community … Dementia Speaks,” family caregivers often tell us: “I now have a better understanding of how to communicate with my wife,” and “My mom doesn’t mean it when she says ugly things to me.” They ask: “Where was this information when I was taking care of my husband?”
You can find a list of “Dementia Speaks” seminars at dtconsultant.org/events.html.
Marcie P. Smith