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A Plan to Reach Ethnic Groups

Other ethnic groups face language and cultural barriers in getting information and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. But the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Assn. is hoping a new ethnic-outreach program will change that.

“Many people are suffering because there is so little in terms of reaching ethnic groups,” says Maria P. Aranda, chairperson of the Los Angeles Alzheimer’s Assn.'s Multicultural Outreach Advisory Board. The board was created this year in an effort to educate ethnic groups about Alzheimer’s as well as to involve the medical community, Aranda says. Nationally, about 15 of the 210 Alzheimer’s Assn.'s chapters have begun to focus on reaching ethnic groups with information.

“Not only Latinos need information, but also the Asian communities--Japanese and Koreans--Filipinos as well as Native-Americans and African-Americans. All these communities have been asking for leadership and technical assistance in Alzheimer’s disease,” Aranda says.

Seven years ago, Aranda, a licensed clinical social worker, formed a Spanish-speaking Alzheimer’s disease support group called Grupo Siempre Viva , which meets monthly.

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The support group, with the help of Calmecac Educational Services, a mental health organization composed of Los Angeles-area Latino professionals, helped produce a 40-page fotonovela , or illustrated booklet, and a 50-minute video about a Latino family’s struggle with Alzheimer’s.

“As a Latina, I know what our community’s needs are,” says Aranda, a psychiatric social worker for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. She also is a National Hispanic Council on Aging fellow at USC and part-time staffer at the San Antonio Mental Health Center in Bell Gardens.

“But what the multicultural outreach board is trying to do is develop a plan of action with community leaders and representatives to develop expertise in multicultural communities regarding Alzheimer’s disease and bring more information into the homes of these communities,” she says.

She adds that the board also will pay close attention to the issue of care-givers: “Families need to come to terms with living with someone who has memory impairment and other dementias. They need to hear the information several times, not just once, because a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is so final that the patient and their families need ongoing counseling.”


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