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New report reveals medical community apt to miss Alzheimer’s diagnosis in older Latinos

LatinaLista — Forgetfulness and confusion are often laughed off when it strikes someone who claims to be having a “senior moment.” But it’s no laughing matter when they are symptoms of Alzheimer’s, a disease that is the sixth leading cause of death among all Americans and for which there is no way to prevent it, cure it, slow it down — or stop its increasing reach into the Latino community.

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The Alzheimer’s Association has released the statistical report 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.

The news isn’t good.

According to the report, an estimated 5.4 million people have Alzheimer’s disease. That means that one in eight people aged 65 and older (13 percent) has Alzheimer’s disease, and nearly half of people aged 85 and older (43 percent) have it.

The majority of those with the disease are women, but not because women are more susceptible to it. It’s because women outlive men.

But Alzheimer’s isn’t just a one-victim disease. It’s the kind that takes other family members with it, even though they aren’t afflicted with Alzheimer’s. They are the caretakers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s and, according to the report, it’s a staggering statistic.

There are an estimated 15 million Americans who provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s. Eighty percent of those providing home care to Alzheimer patients are family members. The report outlines the toll on caregivers that results with over half (61%) of the caregivers suffering from emotional stress.

While most older people afflicted with Alzheimer’s and other dementia are non-Latino whites, Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have it as older whites. Some of the disturbing suspected causes of the disease are diabetes, high blood pressure and lower levels of education — all factors that impact a disproportionate amount of the Latino population overall.

The report also reveals that it’s not uncommon for an Alzheimer’s diagnosis to be missed in older Latinos and blacks versus older whites. It’s a discrepancy alarming researchers because of the projected increase among Latinos and blacks in the coming years.

The only way to combat the discrepancy is vigilance — families must take notice when older family members exhibit any of the ten warning signs, educate themselves on the various treatments of the disease and prepare themselves on how life will change caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Some lines of evidence suggest that as many as 80 percent or more of affected individuals have never been diagnosed. Delayed detection of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia, or delayed or missed diagnosis, deprives affected people of numerous potential benefits and imposes unnecessary physical and emotional burdens on their caregivers.



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