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Report shows getting access to ‘Quality Dementia Care’ can be a challenge for Latinos

CLEVELAND, Oct. 2021: Ramón Hernández grew up in Texas in an era when his parents did not teach him Spanish “because they did not want him to have an accent,” his daughter Rebekah Hernández Pumphrey said. The goal was to just “fit in.”

So, years later when she and her mother took her father, 72, to the doctor because of memory issues, she remembers her dad downplaying discussion of the symptoms they were seeing. “‘I’m good. Am I good?’” she remembers him saying.
 

Because of that, Ms. Hernández Pumphrey said, she feels like the doctor did not take her and her mother’s concerns seriously. Today, years later, Hernández has Alzheimer’s disease. But in the beginning the doctor told them he was probably experiencing memory loss due to aging. Our concerns were “kind of pushed off for a long while. We were pushed through a process that now that I know more, it didn’t go exactly the way it should have gone,”—it took her and her mother being persistent to get the correct diagnosis.

“My dad’s story is like a lot of different Latino men in America,” she said. “Being sick is ‘bad’ and while in with the doctor, he is going to want to have your praise and approval and as a doctor, you are going to have to get past that to see what is going on.”—that is one reason, she says, Hispanic-Americans don’t get the medical care they need.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2021 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures Report, evidence exists that missed diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and other dementias are more common among older African-Americans and Latinos than among older whites. And while Hispanic-Americans are 1.5 times more likely than Whites to get Alzheimer’s disease, Latinos comprise very diverse groups with different cultural histories, genetic ancestries and health profiles that may cause the prevalence of the disease to differ from one specific Latino ethnic group to another.

“At the Alzheimer’s Association we are focused on understanding those differences and providing outreach and education to the Hispanic community because early detection is so important for all,” said Lindsay Walker, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Cleveland Area Chapter. “We also want to reach out to existing caregivers to let them know we can help,” Walker said.

In early November, the Cleveland Area Chapter is offering two virtual education programs in Spanish.  A program on Effective Communication Strategies will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 4. The next program, Understanding and Responding to Dementia-Related Behaviors, will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday Nov. 11. Both programs are free and to pre-register, individuals can call 800.272.3900.

Dr. Maria Espinola, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said growing up in Argentina, her paternal grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s, had access to doctors and received quality medical care. But that is not the case for all Latino families in the United States. Some lack access to competent care and others lack access to information about the disease or community resources, she said. In her research she said she has found that Latinos have the worse access to care but for African Americans, quality of care is worse.

In Mr. Hernández’s case, Hernández Pumphrey said after the family got an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, there was very little information provided about what happens next. In addition, for weeks the family had to keep calling his doctor in order to get a referral to a neurologist.

Ms. Hernández Pumphrey’s sister Carla Brooks said she is not sure if discrimination was the driving factor behind her father’s missed diagnosis and lack of care planning. “I think that is the biggest question of all time,” Brooks said. “Is it the health care system failing in a way or is it discrimination or both?” she said.

Ms. Hernández Pumphrey said the lack of information given to her family about the Alzheimer’s diagnosis was so frustrating because “It was like we were told you had brain cancer or lung cancer and that you had to formulate your own care. There was no this is what you are going to experience, there was no talking about any of that.”

The two Hernández sisters sought out the Alzheimer’s Association and they both attend the Cleveland Area Chapter’s adult children support group. Brooks said, “I have just been so grateful for how the group is run. It is amazing. I feel that every time I go I am heard, which is a huge thing. There is always support and encouragement and advice of what to do. I have gained so many tips and tools that have helped me function in our daily life.”

On the Internet: Visit alz.org or call our 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2021 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/02/21 19:02:57 -0800.

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