Reflections on Black History Month

The Alzheimer's and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin (ADAW) would like to take this opportunity to emphasize the continued importance and relevance of Black History Month as a means of reflecting upon and celebrating the history, culture, achievements, and contributions of Black people to this country. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. It is usually a month of varied activities like debates, lectures, plays, concerts, culinary events, parades, and storytelling all around the country. These events enable people of different backgrounds to share and celebrate different accounts and insights into shared history and experience from a Black perspective. This year’s theme for Black History Month is centered around the importance of Black heath and wellness.

The Experiences of Dementia in the Black Community

As well as various perceptions of what dementia is, there are many challenges concerning dementia among the Black and African American communities. While the most recognized risk factor for dementia is age, the high risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes in African-American people puts them at greater risk of developing vascular dementia. Dementia may be a new experience for some people, especially if families that immigrated to the U.S. were of working age and did not bring older relatives. In some countries of origin, dementia is viewed more as a normal part of aging. It can be considered a punishment by God or possession by spirits. It is believed that it is an 'unpreventable' condition and contributes to a poor understanding of dementia and how to manage it.

People living with dementia from Black/African-American communities also tend to seek help later in the development of dementia. Meaning that they may not benefit from early diagnosis support and often access services when the dementia is quite advanced or when there is a crisis. Obstacles to diagnosis include stigma surrounding the disease, worries about being treated fairly, and lack of culturally tailored services after a diagnosis is received.

For older African American's coping with the lifetime impact of discrimination reinforces a cultural expectation of resilience that makes individuals hesitant to seek help for health and social care problems.

Learning Together

We continue exploring the experiences of Black communities and how our services and others can support their needs. Recognizing Black History Month offers ADAW, supporters, and the families we support, an opportunity to share and celebrate the insights, experiences, and cultural diversity of Black communities. Our diversity outreach specialist Barbara McKinney (Barbara.mckinney@alzwisc.org), is available for resources and support surrounding these issues.