Media Relations Manager, Alzheimer’s Association Florida Region
With more than 6 million Americans currently battling Alzheimer’s, the burden of the disease on individuals and families continues to grow. Even so, there are still many questions surrounding Alzheimer’s and dementia, including the barriers many face to receiving proper care.
As was recently reported in the Alzheimer’s Association “2021 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” report, 50 percent of Black Americans report having experienced healthcare discrimination at some point. Likewise, 42 percent of Native Americans, 34 percent of Asian Americans, and 33 percent of Hispanic Americans reported experiencing the same when seeking healthcare.
Further, when asked whether they felt such discrimination would pose a barrier to receiving Alzheimer’s-related care, 36 percent of Black Americans, 18 percent of Hispanic Americans, and 19 percent of Asian Americans said they believed it would.
Equity in healthcare
When combined with the knowledge that certain racial and ethnic groups — specifically Black and Hispanic Americans — are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s disease, these findings are concerning. To ensure the already substantial burden of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is not worsened by discrimination or health inequities, the following potential solutions should be explored:
The healthcare workforce must be prepared to care for a racially and ethnically diverse population of older adults. Healthcare providers must be prepared to screen, diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s and dementia across diverse populations.
Diversity must be increased in dementia care. The Alzheimer’s Association surveys also indicated that non-white ethnic and racial populations want dementia care providers who understand their experiences and backgrounds.
Finally, we must engage, recruit, and retain diverse populations in Alzheimer’s research and clinical trials. Currently, the vast majority of participants in such clinical trials are white. Without appropriate participation from diverse populations, it is difficult to gain a complete understanding of how racial and ethnic differences may affect the efficacy and safety of potential new treatments.
The fact of the matter is that Alzheimer’s does not discriminate. The disease knows no color or creed, and to ensure that all who are affected receive the best quality of care possible, providers must reflect that same mentality.