“It is a little known fact that Alzheimer’s disease does affect certain racial and ethnic groups at a higher proportion than others.” -Marissa Volpe, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Colorado Chapter.
It is estimated that as many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease. The incidence of the disease is rising in line with the aging population and Marissa Volpe explains why many people do not get proper care due to a misunderstanding of this disease as part of the aging process.
“This is not normal aging. That’s still a big thing that we’re up against. Folks still tend to think that this is part of the natural aging process…Actually it isn’t.”
In addition to the general misunderstanding of Alzheimer’s disease by the public as a whole, minority communities tend to be hit harder by the disease because of many cultural factors that keep Alzheimer’s disease from being diagnosed early or at all. Race, religion, ethnicity, and even sexual orientation all have significant impacts on how people view the disease and whether or not they will seek medical attention.
When these groups do seek medical attention, cultural bias can add to the delay or misdiagnosis of the disease. Volpe says there are efforts being made to focus “on occupational testing versus cultural assumption type testing,” which may help to bridge those issues.
Sexual orientation of the patients and their spouses also becomes a factor due to the history of trouble getting proper care and services in hospitals. Once they have a diagnosis, finding care for a LGBTQ patient can be hard as well.
“Would certain religious based care communities be open to receiving a gay couple?”
The Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter is working on educating about these issues to help facilitate better care for diverse communities. For more specific information on this topic, and links to Alzheimer’s information in languages other than English, there is a Diversity and Inclusion page on the website to help.