Bob DeMarco Alzheimer's Reading Room

Monday, July 12, 2010

Alzheimer's Disease Diagnosis in a Cultural Context


Alzheimer's Reading Room

"Many caregivers did not recognize the early signs of dementia because they thought it was a part of their loved one's normal behavior," said Dilworth-Anderson. "Most caregivers mistakenly believed that having dementia is normal and accepted it as a part of growing old. A medical diagnosis of dementia is often only sought after a cultural understanding is developed by the cultural group."
Increasing evidence suggests that early diagnosis of Alzheimer's and timely intervention is beneficial, both for people with the disease and their caregivers. Earlier Alzheimer and dementia diagnosis could allow for earlier use of medications and other interventions that could help to maintain the person's independence longer. Delays in diagnosis also mean that many miss the opportunity to make legal, financial and care plans while they are still capable.



One study of 22 families, including Whites (seven), Blacks (10) and American Indians (five), examined the Alzheimer diagnostic process in a cultural context and found that ethnic minority groups often seek a diagnosis much later than their White counterparts. Led by Peggye Dilworth-Anderson, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the study found that while all groups recognized the value of having a diagnosis, long delays often occurred between family members' recognition of symptoms of dementia and the scheduling of a medical evaluation.

The study found that, on average, African-Americans sought a diagnosis six years after dementia symptoms emerged, American Indians sought one after five years, and Whites after two years. Study results also indicated that Whites were more likely to seek support through formal services, while Blacks and American Indians turned more often to their faith and spiritual beliefs for support.

"Many caregivers did not recognize the early signs of dementia because they thought it was a part of their loved one's normal behavior," said Dilworth-Anderson. "Most caregivers mistakenly believed that having dementia is normal and accepted it as a part of growing old. A medical diagnosis of dementia is often only sought after a cultural understanding is developed by the cultural group."

In another quantitative study on dementia care led by Dilworth-Anderson, which involved telephone surveys with 200 Black and White caregivers, about 48 percent of caregivers in the study reported that the care recipient had received a diagnosis of dementia. Among those diagnosed, racial differences in access to care services were observed. Whites reported higher care recipient and caregiver service availability than Blacks, particularly direct care services (such as respite care and caregiving facilities). Blacks reported the use of home health care services for the care recipient more than Whites, and also reported having a greater availability of church resources. Additionally, Blacks reported no services being available at all at a higher percentage than Whites.

--Peggye Dilworth-Anderson. Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Within Cultural Context. (Funded by: Alzheimer's Association, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)

About AAICAD

The Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease (AAICAD) is the world's largest conference of it's kind, bringing together researchers from around the world to report and discuss groundbreaking research and information on the cause, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's disease and related disorders. As a part of the Alzheimer's Association's research program, AAICAD serves as a catalyst for generating new knowledge about dementia and fostering a vital, collegial research community.

About the Alzheimer's Association
The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer 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. www.alz.org/icad/

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Bob DeMarco is the editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. Bob has written more than 1,610 articles with more than 8,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room