Recent data from the Alzheimer’s Association reveals that Hispanics are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease compared to white Americans. However, experts argue that cultural factors may indicate a higher prevalence of the disease among Hispanics than reported numbers suggest.
Alarming rates of Alzheimer’s diagnoses are particularly evident in border counties in Texas, where data from the Alzheimer’s Association indicates rates ranging from 13% to 18% among individuals aged 65 and over. Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, not only affects patients but also places a significant burden on caregivers, often family members.
Joe Arciniega, a member of the National Board of Directors of the Alzheimer’s Association, highlights that Hispanic families often downplay the possibility of Alzheimer’s due to a fear of embarrassment, making diagnosis and understanding the disease challenging. The protective nature of Hispanic families around their elderly members may inadvertently contribute to underdiagnosis.
Cultural barriers further complicate the situation, as many Hispanic families dismiss dementia symptoms as a normal part of aging, according to Arciniega. This, coupled with a gap in Alzheimer’s education, calls for increased programs in higher education focused on dementia care and treatment, along with targeted outreach to families.
Gladys Maestre, a neuroscientist and professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, emphasizes that the values of the Hispanic community can interfere with diagnosis and patient care. Language barriers also play a role, as English as a second language, coupled with medical terminology, poses challenges for Hispanic families.
Admitting the presence of a problem proves difficult for Hispanics, influenced by a cultural emphasis on respecting elders, says Alzheimer’s Association Executive Director Greg Sciuto. Breaking down the stigma associated with a diagnosis becomes crucial to encourage individuals to come forward.
Lack of representation in clinical trials is identified as a consequence of cultural views among Hispanics. Joe Arciniega notes that inadequate representation limits medical understandings of risk factors and interventions specific to non-White patients who face a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Christopher Johnson, a clinical professor of sociology at Texas State University, highlights the need for outreach to Latino families to increase Hispanic representation in clinical trials. Johnson identifies language and cultural barriers as significant hurdles.
Empowering caregivers with knowledge about Alzheimer’s and fostering an understanding of the disease help remove stigma and support families, according to experts. The strong family social support in Hispanic communities is acknowledged, but the stress experienced by caregivers is also recognized.
As efforts to address Alzheimer’s disparities continue, education, outreach, and support for caregivers emerge as crucial components in mitigating the impact of Alzheimer’s disease within Hispanic communities.