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African-Americans are twice as likely to live with Alzheimer’s or another dementia yet less likely than whites to receive a diagnosis.
On March 7, the Alzheimer’s Association Rochester and Finger Lakes Region held its eighth annual Dr. Lemuel and Gloria Rogers African-American Health Symposium at Mount Olivet Baptist Church. More than 100 attendees — including individuals who live with Alzheimer’s or another dementia and family caregivers — learned about the disease risks, prevention and management.
While older African-Americans are two times more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias, they are less likely than whites to have a diagnosis of the condition, according to the newly released Alzheimer’s Association 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report. Health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes are suspected risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementias among all groups. High blood pressure and diabetes are more prevalent in the African-American community. In addition, African-Americans are typically diagnosed at a later stage and, as a result, incur higher costs of health care services.
Rick Gause of Irondequoit shared his experience of caring his mother-in-law Viola who lives with Alzheimer’s.
“Becoming a caregiver changes your daily routine and changes you. Being a caregiver is stressful and overwhelming. It’s a learned behavior. It takes a lot of patience. If you care for your loved one with memory loss — the Alzheimer’s Association has resources to help,” said Gause.
The symposium is named after Lemuel Rogers, one of the first African-American doctors to build and own a medical building in Rochester. Over the course of his 30 years of practice, he delivered more than 5,000 babies in Rochester’s Highland and Saint Mary’s hospitals. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Rogers and his family became active supporters of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Rogers’ son, Lemuel Rogers Jr., attended this year’s conference. After receiving a gift from the Alzheimer’s Association commemorating his father and mother, Rogers shared with the audience his family’s story of living with Alzheimer’s.
“It is heartbreaking to see your father having difficulty eating, walking and talking. The disease can be devastating for all family members. But you don’t have to travel this journey alone. The Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Ministry at Mount Olivet have resources to enhance the care of those with the disease and support those who care for their loved ones,” said Rogers.
Lois Williams-Norman, board member and chair of diversity and inclusion committee at the Alzheimer’s Association Rochester and Finger Lakes Region, thanked the Rev. Rickey Harvey of Mount Olivet for his support in organizing the symposium.
“We are also thankful to the Alzheimer’s Ministry and all Mount Olivet members for helping us organize this event and for reaching out to other faith communities in the Greater Rochester area” said Williams-Norman.
Anton Porsteinsson, director of Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Research, and Education Program and a med-sci committee member at the Alzheimer’s Association, talked about the latest research developments, including evidence that the risk to develop mild cognitive impairment and dementia could be reduced by aggressively managing high blood pressure. Fatima Srayi, community nutrition educator at Foodlink, encouraged people at risk of dementia to make healthy lifestyle choices.
More than 400,000 New Yorkers are living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, whereas the number of family caregivers exceeds one million. New York state has the nation’s highest Medicaid expenditures for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias at more than $5 billion in 2018 and sixth highest per capita expenditure on Alzheimer’s dementia at $29,385.
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