first, when she was getting bad, he would explain to everybody
when we went places that she had Alzheimer’s. It started to take
a toll on him. In the end, he was physically and mentally
exhausted. None of us could help. Or we could only help so much.
He chose to do that. God love him for that. I can’t believe he
took on that challenge,” Martínez said.
Martínez’s mother died in June 2019. A mother of eight children,
she didn’t recognize her husband toward the end and even though
she was home, she would say she wanted to go home.
Dementia researchers and public health experts are zeroing in on dementia
risk factors, including lifestyle and genetics, in the Hispanic
community. According to the National Institute on Aging
(NIA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
reports that by 2060 the number of Latinos age 65 and older is
expected to nearly quadruple, and that Latinos will face the
largest increase in Alzheimer’s disease and related
dementias cases of any racial/ethnic group in the United States.
Because age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s, that
means there will be more Latinos with the disease in the years
ahead—about 3.5 million in the United States by 2060, according
to the NIA.
Currently, Hispanics are about 1.5 times more likely to develop
dementia than non-Hispanic whites, according to the Alzheimer’s
Association’s Facts and Figures report. New
research released this summer is helping dementia experts
understand how genetic predictors of Alzheimer’s risk may differ
among Hispanics of different backgrounds/heritage, and between
Hispanic and White individuals.
need to advocate and focus in on research, understand the risk
factors and dramatically improve the timeliness of diagnoses,”
said Julia Pechlivanos, Executive Director of the
Alzheimer's Association Northwest Ohio Chapter. “Dementia is
a looming but under-recognized public health crisis in
Hispanic/Latin American communities in the United States.”
Alzheimer's is a progressive brain disease that affects memory,
thinking and behavior. In Ohio, there are 220,000 individuals
aged 65 and older living with the disease. There currently is no
cure for the disease.
“Alzheimer’s is a disease that does not discriminate. It can’t
be prevented, and it can’t be slowed,” Pechlivanos said. “But we
know that when the Association provides families with education
about the disease and offers support for caregivers, it makes a
Alberto Williams-Medina was born
in Bayamón, Puerto Rico but spent most of his time in Vega Alta,
on the northern coast of the island. He said he grew up with his
grandparents and his great grandparents and was taught to care
and respect his elders. His great-grandmother had Alzheimer’s
which they called “senil demencia.”
could see it in her eyes, she was physically there but she
wasn’t there,” Williams said. He remembers being around 12 years
old cooking for her and helping to give her medications. “I
would talk to her and she would drift off a lot of times. It’s a
very hard experience to live,” he said. “Because of my family
pushing me to care for my elders….I found joy doing it.”
Today, he is in the Master's in Medical Physiology program at
Case Western Reserve University and will start volunteering
as an Alzheimer’s Association community educator to give
programs in Spanish. Sacred Heart Chapel in Lorain, Ohio,
whose congregation is comprised of mostly Puerto Rican and
Mexican families, with a smattering of people from Central
America and Latin America, will be his first assignment. “It’s
absolutely necessary to cater to the needs of the Hispanic,
Latino, Latinx communities,” he said. “I think the Alzheimer’s
Association trying to immerse themselves in the culture is
beautiful,” Williams said. “That makes us think we are valued.
It’s not just a one-size-fits-all.”
S. Cathy McConnell, Pastoral
Associate at Sacred Heart Chapel, wants to make that
connection because she knows how important it is for families to
connect with resources about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Her
mother had Lewy body dementia, the second most common
type of dementia after Alzheimer’s. “When people say they have
someone who is sick, dying or has Alzheimer’s I immediately
refer them,” she said.
was a caregiver for my mother. There were nine of us, we were a
team and we were able to keep mom home. I’ve noticed the
community here, many of them do the same thing, the problem is
they are not given the same tools,” Sister Cathy said.
“(Caregivers) can be so frustrated and feel overwhelmed but when
they have tools to cope it is better,” she said. In her
congregation, she said, most are not sole caregivers. “There is
a network there,” she said.
Sister Cathy said she is not sure about the scientific
differences as to why Alzheimer’s may impact the Latino
community more, “but the way that the community deals with it
may be different. I think there is a little bit more patience
when mom forgets something. In the mainstream community it’s
more about let’s find a facility for mom.”
Martinez, his sister Gina Martínez-Villagomez and
sister Cynthia Neptune all helped in their mother’s care.
Neptune, who lived next door to her parents, said the hardest
part for her was seeing her mother progressively get worse. “I
would go over to the house and I would come back and I would
just be crying because I knew she was slowly slipping away.”
About Alzheimer’s Association®
Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health
organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research. Our
mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the
advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support
for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the
promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without
Alzheimer's®. Visit www.alz.org/wv
or call our 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.