Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Developing a Strategy for Our People

from the desk of Pastor George Nicholas

To join the 5 part Education Series  for the: Facing Dementia in the Black/African American Community taking place September 3rd through October 1st . Register at : bit.ly/DementiaWebinar  or contact the 24/7 helpline at 1-800-272-3900.

One of the values that is prominent in our religious and ethnic practice is the necessity to honor our elders. Scripture teaches us:

Deuteronomy 5:16 (NIV) “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you While the wisdom of the African proverbs proclaims:” Those who respect the elderly pave their own road toward success.”

Sadly, many of our elders suffer from debilitating diseases that infect the august of their years with pain, suffering and mental confusion. One such disease is Alzheimer’s which is a form of dementia which attacks the neurological functions of our elders. Like many physical and mental diseases in America, African Americans suffer at a disproportionate rate of Alzheimer’s. African Americans are twice as likely as whites to struggle with Alzheimer’s but less likely to receive a proper diagnosis from their health care provider. Early diagnosis is critical to develop a treatment plan to enhance the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s but all too often this is not the experience for our elders. 

Several key points that are critical in our developing of a strategy to help our people:

•Developing Alzheimer’s and dementia is not an inevitable part of getting older.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not the same. Alzheimer’s is a disease and Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life.

•It is imperative that we educate the community on what Alzheimer’s and related dementias are so that they can seek early guidance from their health care provider, the later you seek support, the more stress and financial burden builds.

•While African Americans are about two times more likely than whites to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias, they are only 34% more likely to have a diagnosis.

•When they are diagnosed, African Americans are typically diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, when they are more cognitively and physically impaired therefore in need of more medical care.

•High blood pressure and diabetes are risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementias and are more prevalent in the African American community.

•The social determinants of health: including lower levels of education, higher rates of poverty, and greater exposure to adversity and discrimination, may also increase risk in African American communities.

Lack of information often combined with poor theological practice often creates a stigma within our community when dealing with mental health disorders. As a result we often either do not have the proper information to identify the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s or ignore what we do know because we do not want to face the reality that there is something wrong with our loved one. We even think the loss of mental functions is somehow attributed to demonic activity or some bad behavior on our part. Stop, we need information so we can care for our seniors. 

To that end I am so blessed to be partnering with the Alzheimer’s Association to provide much needed information and resources on how we can better care for our elders who are struggling with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. There are many organizations in our region that have valuable resources that we must access to improve the quality of life for our people. The Alzheimer’s Association is a willing partner that has invested their time and talents to provide information to our community on how we can care for our mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and other seniors who are battling the diminishing mental and physical capacity.

While there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s there are research projects that are drawing us closer to a cure. In the meantime, there are things that can be done to improve the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s and we need to acquire these tools for our people. To that end I am honored to be part of important conference that specifically addresses this issue.

Please join us for the: Facing Dementia in the Black/African American Community: 5 Part Education Series starting September 3rd through October 1st . Registration Information: bit.ly/DementiaWebinar, or contact the 24/7 helpline at 1-800-272-3900.