The alarming statistics surrounding Alzheimer's and dementia in communities of color cannot be ignored. Black Americans are twice as likely as older Whites to have Alzheimer's or another dementia, and Latinos are 1.5 times as likely, according to the Alzheimer's Association. While higher rates of cardiovascular disease may play a role, some studies suggest that these differences disappear after accounting for overall health and socioeconomic status. Regardless of the cause, the prevalence of dementia in Black and Brown communities is a public health crisis that demands immediate attention.
In a recent webinar hosted by AGE-u-cate, three prominent leaders—Dr. Bashir Easter, Founder and CEO of Melanin Minded LLC; Dr. Fayron Epps, Founder of Alter (Dementia); and Sonja Gunter, Founder of Dementia911, Angel911, and Senior911—came together to discuss and share their strategies for driving change in these communities.
The first step in addressing this crisis is to unsilence it. Bringing the situation to light through critical discussions with community leaders, stakeholders, and the affected individuals is crucial. By doing so, we can bridge the gap in racial and ethnic barriers, understanding cultural differences and reducing the stigma associated with dementia. This opens the doors for accessing resources, promoting widespread education, and offering support services.
Faith communities are emerging as lead stakeholders in Black and Brown communities, providing essential avenues for education and support to those living with dementia and their caregivers. The Alter program's framework equips faith leaders with tools to implement proven programs and steps effectively.
Intergenerational programming plays a significant role in raising community awareness and providing access for young people caring for loved ones with dementia. By addressing high rates of social isolation and loneliness in communities of color, leaders are contributing to the development of dementia-capable systems and dementia-friendly initiatives.
Positive change is underway with programs that directly address the needs of people with dementia. For instance, Navigator transportation services, developed by Melanin Minded, are connecting individuals with dementia to activities and resources, keeping them engaged in faith communities and social lives.
Leaders in this space are not working in isolation. They are connecting, collaborating, and engaging in conversations with a shared passion to move forward together in addressing dementia in communities of color. Bold initiatives, innovation, and a drive for positive change are evident across the United States.
Unveiling the realities of dementia in communities of color is the key to creating meaningful change. The critical conversations sparked by community leaders and change-makers are breaking down barriers, reducing stigma, and creating a path for a more inclusive and supportive future for those affected by Alzheimer's and dementia. As we witness passion in action through bold initiatives, we can hope for a future where the disparities in dementia rates are diminished, and all communities receive the support they need to navigate this challenging health crisis.