Dementia and its associated diseases impact millions of older adults and their communities across the United States. Mindpath Health’s Kiana Shelton, LCSW, explains how this can impact some people more than others in this Verywell Mind article.
Dementia and its associated diseases impact millions of older adults and their communities across the United States, but it is unclear why some people are more impacted than others. A new study found that Black and Hispanic seniors may be at greater risk of dementia than older individuals of American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, or white backgrounds.
This research was based on information analysis from a national cohort of older veterans who received care at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and included five racial and ethnic groups in the country.
These findings highlight the importance of addressing health disparities among equity-seeking groups since most adults are expected to grow old and may be at risk of dementia in the future.
Early screening for dementia is crucial
Since dementia limits the ability to create and retain new memories, Dr. Pratt notes that symptoms are usually noticed by others before the person suffering from this memory loss accepts it as fact.
Dr. Pratt highlights, “It is very important to understand the risk factors for dementia, including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, stroke, transient ischemic attack, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and alcohol-use disorders. Neglecting the treatment of these conditions puts you at significantly higher risk for dementia.”
There are some conditions that may look like dementia, pseudodementia, delirium, infections, sleep apnea, and secondary effects of medications.
Trauma increases risk of dementia
Kiana Shelton, LCSW, with Mindpath Health says, “This publication fits within a greater body of research regarding not only access to medical care but the nature of that medical care, especially for individuals from the BIPOC community.”
Shelton highlights that it would be interesting to know if the earlier duties of the veterans who were diagnosed with dementia included combat training.
Having worked with veterans and those within the geriatric community, Shelton notes the impact of trauma and its correlation with dementia or dementia-like symptoms.
Dementia requires greater public attention
Stella Panos, PhD, says, “The authors of this study discussed several factors that may influence these findings, including socioeconomic and other structural factors, health effects of racism, other social determinants of health, and decreased cognitive reserve because of unequal access to educational opportunities or quality.”
Panos highlights, “Awareness that these differences are present is crucial, as is more support (e.g., research) to better address these differences. This adds to a growing body of health disparities research in dementia.”
In terms of context, Panos notes that some have begun referring to “a dementia crisis” as the number of cases of dementia is predicted to more than triple by 2050, which will have significant implications for society, especially among individuals from ethnic and racial minority groups.
Individuals from ethnic and racial minority groups are often under-represented in clinical trials, which can threaten generalizability of findings, according to Panos.
Read the full Verywell Mind article with sources.