Cultural Awareness in Dementia Care - “My Norms, Your Values – What Does It Matter?!

July 18, 2016

The Minnesota Board on Aging (MBA) has a new initiative, “Cultural Awareness in Dementia Care” which will help aging network community organizations with their outreach and service delivery to diverse ethnic and cultural communities and will also enhance MBA training materials.    “Cultural Awareness in Dementia Care” promotes principles of health equity and enhances person-centered dementia care for diverse ethnic and cultural communities who most often experience health disparities.

Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) disproportionately affect members of ethnic and cultural communities who also have high rates of diabetes, hypertension and cardio vascular disease - risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease[i].  African-Americans are 2 times and Latinos 1.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.  However, awareness activities, education, dementia diagnosis and support services have been slow to develop.  This initiative will increase awareness among aging service providers and healthcare personnel about the norms and values of specific ethnic and cultural groups to assist them in providing better service.

Individuals from four cultural communities, African-American, American Indian, Latino/Hispanic/Chicano, and Somali, were selected to complete on-line and in-person dementia trainings to become consultants as part of this initiative.  These consultants have extensive knowledge of their community’s cultural norms and values.  They also have excellent academic qualifications: one is a U.S. physician, several are physicians in their country of origin, and others are PhDs or have a master’s in public health. 

These aging network consultants are aware of how their community members react to and deal with ADRD. With specific additional dementia knowledge, they can make presentations about the cultural nuances, assist with outreach, assist in planning new initiatives, do research and other activities.   Additional outreach to expand the consultant pool to additional ethnic and cultural groups is ongoing.  This may be the first initiative of its kind in the United States. 

Click here for a brief synopsis of their background and the Area Agency on Aging regions they serve.

[i] Plassman BL, Langa KM, Fisher GG, Heeringa SG, Weir DR, Ofstedal MB, et al. Prevalence of dementia in the United States: The Aging, Demographics, and Memory Study. Neuroepidemiology 2007;29(1–2):125–32.