Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that destroys your memory and other important functions of the brain. According to statistics, 5.5 million people in America are living with Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia. Marissa Volpe, the diversity and inclusion coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado said the disease is more likely to affect Latinos.
“The fascinating piece is Latinos are more at risk and one half times more likely to get Alzheimer’s,” Volpe said.
Volpe pointed to the Hispanic paradox as being a reason why Latinos are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s. The Hispanic paradox is the fact that Latino’s life expectancy is longer than other ethnicities. “The biggest risk is aging,” Volpe said. “Because Latinos live so long they are the most at risk. Because of that, it’s a perfect storm.”
One in two people living in their 80s will suffer from Alzheimer’s. According to Volpe, by 2050 there will be a 600 percent increase in the number of Latinos who suffer from the disease.
Volpe said that Latinos are often the last ones to get diagnosed for Alzheimer’s. Due to this, Latino’s often need more medical care if they are suffering from Alzheimer’s because as later stages of the disease kick in, people become more cognitively and physically impaired.
“This is not normal aging,” Volpe said. “Hispanics have the lowest use of meds than any other ethnicity.” We still have a lot of education to do in the community around that.”
Alzheimer’s affects the hippocampus, a walnut-shaped piece of the brain that is responsible for memory. Volpe said people suffering from the disease will typically ask for the same information over and over again. As the disease begins to spread throughout the brain it can affect vision and language. The language aspect of it is of particular note for people who are bilingual. Oftentimes bilingual people with Alzheimer’s will forget a language. “Two-language families will tell me ‘Marissa, he’s not speaking English anymore’,” Volpe said.
The memory loss affects more than just language. People with Alzheimer’s will see changes in how their mind puts things in order. Volpe said an example of this is the process of brushing your teeth. She said people will forget the process of brushing their teeth to the point where they can’t remember when to put toothpaste on a toothbrush. People with Alzheimer’s will also have a change in personality.
This Thursday the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado will host a free reception and educational event at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science called “Aging in the Latino Community: The Impact of Alzheimer’s & Dementia en Nuestra Familias.”
The event will have over 100 Latino families and doctors who are specifically researching the affects of Alzheimer’s in the Latino community. The event will also give information on caregivers’ experiences and strategies on how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s.
The event begins at 5:30 p.m. -8 p.m. Please RSVP or call 800-272-3900, or register online at www.alz.org/co.