Call to Action: Increase Alzheimer’s Awareness Among African Americans

Portrait Of Smiling Multi-Generation Family At Home In Garden Together

Did you know that Blacks and African Americans (as well as Indigenous persons) are two-times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other dementias when compared to non-Hispanic whites? According to the Washington State Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias 2023–2028, among both populations, there’s at least a 45 percent greater chance of developing dementia as compared to non-Hispanic whites. Furthermore, African Americans experience greater disparities in chronic disease like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all of which increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

The State Plan includes a Call to Action (Appendix C) for individuals, care partners, Aging Network providers, public health departments, and other community organizations to increase public awareness, engagement, support, and education about brain health. The goals emphasize health equity—equitable access to comprehensive, culturally relevant health care and resources for family caregivers and care partners.

We know that the number of Blacks and African Americans is growing in our population. We also know there are factors that impact accurate diagnosis and treatment of African Americans, including false perceptions about what is “normal” aging, mistrust due to past mistreatment and institutionalized racism, and culturally inappropriate cognitive screening tools. See the Dementia Action Collaborative publication called “African Americans and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Call to Action for Organizations.”

According to the Healthy Brain Initiative State and Local Road Map for Public Health, 2023–2027 (CDC and Alzheimer’s Association), 36 percent of Black adults believe discrimination would be a barrier to receiving Alzheimer’s care. African Americans are generally diagnosed at later stages of Alzheimer’s disease; it is the fifth leading cause of death among older African Americans.

Raising awareness among Black and African American faith communities

Memory Sunday promotes brain health and dementia awareness among people of African descentEnter Memory Sunday—generally the second Sunday in June (plus Memory Sabbath, recognized by some faith communities one day earlier). This annual recognition is designed to raise awareness about the importance of cognitive health issues among people of African descent, utilizing trusted ministries to disseminate information about brain health, the benefit of early diagnosis, caregiver support, and more. Memory Sunday increases the opportunity to talk about Alzheimer’s and other dementias, which helps to reduce stigma that creates a barrier to care for many older people.

An information flyer, showing community co-sponsors, is available here. Participating faith communities are listed here.

For more information about Memory Sunday in Seattle-King County and for handouts and other resources, or if your faith community would like to participate, e-mail Angeilea Yancey-Watson, African American Reach and Teach Health, at

Suggested actions for individuals, care partners, and others

We can all play a role in increasing Alzheimer’s awareness and access to quality health care and other services. Start by forwarding a link to this article to anyone you know who identifies as Black or African American.

You can also help raise awareness among people of other races and ethnicities. The State’s Call to Action, linked above, includes suggested action steps and links for more information, outlined in a way that makes it very easy to find what you need, including tips for legal planning and information about caregiving and risk factors, including comorbidities, developmental disabilities, hearing loss, and more. Take a few minutes to see what’s available and forward links to everyone you know who may be concerned about brain health, memory loss, and caregiving. Truly, we are all in this together.

Karen WinstonContributor Karen Winston is a senior planner at Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for King County, a division of Seattle Human Services. Karen staffs the Mayor’s Council on African American Elders and initiated Memory Sunday participation in Seattle-King County six years ago. She can be contacted at

This article appeared in the June 2024 issue of AgeWise King County.