Meeting the Special Challenge of Alzheimer's in the African-American Community

Jun 25, 2019

Caring for those with Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia is a challenge for anyone. But the burden is especially felt in the African-American community. A special event this Saturday, June 29, aims to ease that burden.

One of the event organizers is Tallahassee Memorial Hospital where Vicky Rose is the coordinator of the Memory Disorder Clinic. She sees the caregiving disparities everyday.

“African-Americans have a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease and we want to make sure that everybody knows about the resources, including African-Americans,” she noted.

Tomeka Norton Brown is the project coordinator for ACTS 2. That’s an initiative of the Florida State University College of Medicine’s Department of Behavioral Sciences and Social Medicine that’s focusing on the special needs of African-American families when it comes to Alzheimer’s.

“I have been in that role as a caregiver and so I see it from both sides. I see it from the point of the daily struggle and what I go through and also from the side of knowing there were resources available that maybe I should have taken advantage of, but I didn’t. It’s very hard and I tell people it’s nothing that I would have chosen for my life, but also nothing I would have changed either,” she remarked, adding that this personal experience has given her deeper insights into the problems facing the larger community.

“There are tons of resources community-wide that are available and a lot of times in the African-American community folks don’t actually know where to go to be able to tap into those resources. So we want to provide a one-stop-shop so everyone will have the opportunity to see what’s available and to be in the room with those resources.”

This need led, continued Vicky Rose, to an inaugural outreach for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

“Last year we had a really good turnout and that was the first time we’d done the event at the Old West Enrichment Center. So this year we’re coming back a bit more tailored specifically for that community and we’re back at the Old West Enrichment Center. We’re hoping that people will come out again and get to know this event, because it’s going to try to be an annual event.”

One highlight of the day is the gathering of so many professional service providers at one place and time. And Rose said there’s a new dimension this year.

“We’re doing a panel specifically of people in the community who have used some of the services so they can communicate to the audience about how they’ve used the services and that pipeline of how you start and where you can go in the service pipeline. We also have a professional panel that’s going to be sharing resources in what they do along this pipeline to get services.”

On top of that, Norton Brown explained some of the most valuable information can come from caregiver peers.

“You don’t have to do it by yourself. There are other people who are going through the same thing, which is why when you have the opportunity to bring a bunch of caregivers together, then they may say something and you go, ‘A-ha! I’m dealing with that same thing!’ So it gives you that sense that you’re not in it by yourself and don’t have to do it alone. There are people who are willing to be there to step in, fill that gap and provide some help.”

There will also be some professional speakers.

“Our keynote is going to be Dr. Soheyla Mahdavian. She is an associate professor of pharmacy at FAMU. So that’s going to be exciting as well and an inspirational lunch speaker, Reverend Ronnie Wesley from Pensacola,” said Norton Brown.

Caregivers can bring their charges with them as there will be folks on hand to take up the caregiving responsibility during the event.

“The event is Saturday, June 29th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We’ll start our registration at 9 in the morning at the Old West Enrichment Center, which is off of Lake Bradford Road, 2344 Lake Bradford Road in Tallahassee, Florida,” said Rose, adding that participants won’t need to pack a lunch, but they should call Tomeka Norton Brown.

“(Her number is) 1-866-778-2724. We’re asking all folks to please call us and RSVP so we make sure to get enough lunch. The event is free and lunch is going to be donated to us, so we just want to make sure we have enough to go around.”