Mary, diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 57 and her daughter/caregiver Kamaria.

A growing body of evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s disease disproportionately affects certain racial and ethnic communities, with elderly African Americans and Latinos being among those at greater risk. Research published in the medical journal Alzheimer’s Disease & Associated Disorders, along with other data compiled and shared by the group UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, are among the many who have highlighted these distressing disparities.

Since 1999 Alzheimer’s death rates in communities of color have increased dramatically. Between 1999 and 2014, Alzheimer’s disease death rates grew by 107% in Hispanic communities and 99% in African American communities.1 Latino and African American senior populations are projected to continue increasing—and as UsAgainstAlzheimer’s points out, this trend signals the potential for a significant rise in the number of patients in these communities that will be living with Alzheimer’s. 

The study published by Alzheimer’s Disease & Associated Disorders explored some of the factors that are driving these disparities. The research found that differences in biological risk factors—including genetics and cardiovascular disease—may help explain disparities in the incidence and prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease. At the same time, cultural factors, such as different perceptions about what is normal aging and what is not, a lack of adequate access to medical care, and trust issues between individuals from underrepresented communities and medical providers, can impact diagnosis and treatment. The study recommended education and outreach as pivotal next steps in the effort to better understand these disparities among racial and ethnic communities.

In addition to the emotional and medical burdens of Alzheimer’s disease are the exorbitant costs, which can be particularly difficult for low-income families.

According to a study published in 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine, families in 2010 spent on average between $41,000 and $56,000 annually on Alzheimer’s-related costs.2 Other research found that admission into a nursing home costs on average $100,000 per-patient in the U.S. per year.3,4

Putting this in context: in 2010 the median household income for Latino and African American families was $40,785 and $39,715, respectively.5 These costs only cover day-to-day caregiving and symptom management. Alzheimer’s treatment could mean a lifeline for people living with the disease and significant financial relief for their loved ones.

Researchers continue to investigate the disproportionate Alzheimer’s disease risks and outcomes in racial and ethnic communities, and Biogen strongly supports efforts to help address this health disparity. 

As part of these efforts, Biogen aims to enroll at least 16 percent Latinx and Black/African American patients with Alzheimer’s disease in the ICARE AD-US study as part of its commitment to increase participation from traditionally underrepresented communities 

Read more from Alzheimer’s Disease & Associated Disorders and UsAgainstAlzheimer’s on diversity and disparities in Alzheimer’s disease.

Concerned about brain health? Visit mybrainguide.org or call 855-272-4641 to receive resources tailored to your needs. 

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1 “Driving Health Equity in Dementia,” UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, accessed: January 21, 2021, https://www.usagainstalzheimers.org/learn/disparities

2 Michael Hurd, “The Cost of Dementia: Who Will Pay?,” RAND Corporation, May 1, 2013, https://www.rand.org/blog/2013/05/the-cost-of-dementia-who-will-pay.html

3Alzheimer’s Association. 2020 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.

Cloutier et al. Institutionalization risk and costs associated with agitation in Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s & Dementia. 2019.

5 “Driving Health Equity in Dementia,” UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, accessed: January 21, 2021, https://www.usagainstalzheimers.org/learn/disparities

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