Focus on African-American Dementia Caregivers

Banner with photo of 3-generation African American family and save-the-date for Memory Sunday June 14, 2020

From the desk of ADS director Cathy Knight

Did you know that older African Americans are twice as likely as older whites to have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias?

This coming weekend is Memory Sunday. This annual event recognizes Alzheimer’s and other dementias—and promotes brain health—among faith communities serving African Americans. The event was conceived and developed by The Balm in Gilead, an organization that sponsors the National Brain Health Center for African Americans and works with faith institutions serving people of African descent to prevent diseases, improve health outcomes, and eliminate health disparities.

Aging and Disability Services planner Karen Winston and a community-based planning team have coordinated Memory Sunday information and materials with local faith leaders for several years. This year, the challenge they face is to get the word out to congregations that are not meeting in person due to COVID-19. See Karen’s article about Memory Sunday in the June issue of AgeWise King County, and share it with anyone you know who might want to participate. (By the way, Public Health—Seattle & King County has issued guidelines for re-opening of churches that you can read here.)

AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving recently issued a 2020 Caregiving in the U.S. report. A summary of findings related to African-American caregivers is available here. These findings include:

  • African-American caregivers are more likely to care for a loved one alone, in higher-intensity situations, with lower incomes and more financial burden than white caregivers.
  • African-American caregivers appear to find a stronger sense of purpose and meaning in their caregiving roles than do white caregivers.
  • African Americans show greater interest in programs that help pay for care than do white caregivers and more likely to ask a health care professional about their own self-care needs.

Memory Sunday is one of two annual events that ADS coordinates to provide support and information for African American dementia caregivers. The other is Legacy of Love, an annual one-day forum for African American caregivers—with special emphasis on memory care—during Caregiver Month (November). Karen Winston is the lead on that event as well, which we anticipate will be held online. You can review Legacy of Love forums in 2018 and 2019 here.

I want to remind everyone that Aging and Disability Services offers caregiver support services. Some level of support is available to any “family caregiver” (i.e., primary unpaid caregiver of a family member or other loved one), regardless of their financial means. Extra services are available for care partners with low and moderate incomes, thanks to our Medicaid Transformation Project. The key thing to remember is this—for caregiver support services, call Community Living Connections (toll-free 844-348-5464). They’ll help you figure out the rest.

June is national Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Talking about dementia and caregiving is important. We’re all affected by one or both at some point (or multiple points) in our lives. The more we talk about it, the easier it is for everyone to talk with their loved ones and health care providers about early diagnosis, participation in research, treatment options, planning for the future, and a wealth of local resources for living well with memory loss. Learn more facts and figures and keep the conversation going. And help is available—again, call Community Living Connections 844-348-5464 for professional, confidential answers to questions and referrals to services that can help you or a loved one who needs extra support.

Cathy Knight directs Aging and Disability Services, a division of the Seattle Human Services Department and the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County.