Keeping Our Elders in Our Hearts and Minds This Thanksgiving

By Marcela Vargas, Project Coordinator, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

CAG Homecare worker2This week is Thanksgiving, and like many of you, I’m getting ready to head home and spend the holiday with my extended family.  November is best known for Thanksgiving, but there are other causes worth recognizing this month.  November is also National Alzheimer’s Diseases Awareness Month and National Caregiver Awareness Month.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Latinos are 1.5 times more likely to get Alzheimer’s than non-Hispanic Whites.  A few reasons for this are the higher rates of risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol that exist in our community.  This is particularly troubling because the older Hispanic adult population is growing faster than older adults of other races and ethnicities, according to the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCA).  With a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s and a rapidly growing population, it’s important to educate ourselves about how we can recognize and help our loved ones manage this disease. 

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Not only are older Latinos more impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, their families are also under extra stress in taking care of them.  In May, NHCA released the results of their research project on Latino attitudes, knowledge, and challenges around Alzheimer’s disease.  The study also looked at the role of the caregiver in Alzheimer’s disease.  Many participants expressed concern about family members who want to lend support but have other obligations, preventing them from providing the care they would like to give.  Caregivers expressed the desire to help their family members but emphasized the challenge of remaining strong under the emotional stress that comes with the job.  Many talked about how they often felt overwhelmed coping with the different stresses of being a caregiver.

NCLR’s Mantenga su Mente Activa (Keep Your Brain Healthy) project strives to increase knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease in the Latino community and share the resources available to help cope with the disease.  As a part of this project, we partner with our Affiliates to educate community members about Alzheimer’s disease risk factors, treatments, and support.  This year, we created a video that explores the day-to-day life of a caretaker, called “A Disfrutar Cada Momento [Enjoying Each Moment]: A Latino Family’s Experience with Alzheimer’s,” and it is available in English and Spanish.  You can also watch them after the jump. I encourage you to take look and learn more about how two sisters take care of their mom, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.  It is a touching story, and it can help you share this information with your own family as you sit around the dinner table this Thanksgiving.

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