African Americans at higher risk for Alzheimer's disease

Published: Feb. 1, 2018 at 5:30 PM CST
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African Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease compared to Caucasians.

Community members are invited to a free community talk and memory screening presented by the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center on February 16 and 17.

The event is planned for February and named after Solomon Carter Fuller, the nation’s first African-American psychiatrist and a pioneer in Alzheimer’s disease research.

"We were fortunate enough to get connected to UW, which had a lot of knowledge and was willing to get that knowledge into the community," Jewelline Wiggins said. Wiggins was a caretaker for her mother for 15 years as she suffered dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia. Wiggins said she appreciates the local resources available that helped her care for her mother.

For the past nine years, Wiggins has participated in a clinical core study at UW health.

"To just make sure that I don’t have the same issue that my mother had," Wiggins said. "Because you really wouldn’t even wish that type of life on your enemy."

Dr. Carey Gleason with the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center said she encourages people who have concerns about their memory to sign up for a screening.

"African-Americans are underrepresented in research, so our discoveries, our treatments, our understanding of the disease is not fully capturing the African-American story," Dr. Gleason said.

Dr. Gleason said memory screenings offer an opportunity for families and older adults to get answers about whether or not what they’re noticing should be something of concern.

"For them to take the time to get into the African-American community and to provide this screening for no charge and no blood drawn, I think it’s a blessing," Wiggins said.

The 8th annual Solomon Carter Fuller Memory Screening event starts on Friday, February 16 with a free community talk from 7:00 -8:30 p.m. at the Fountain of Life Covenant Church, 633 W. Badger Road. The education continues on Saturday, February 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Village on Park, 2300 S. Park Street for a free confidential memory screening and health fair. These events are free and open to the public.

Friday’s event will feature Dr. Cerise Elliot, a program analyst at the National Institute on Aging and an expert in health disparities research, presenting on advancing health disparities research in the African-American community. Saturday’s event also includes a caregiver workshop and a nutritional cooking demonstration featuring Chef Rod Ladson.

Members of the public can secure a memory screening appointment by calling the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance at 608-232-3400. Walk-in appointments are also available.

This event is hosted by the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin, with sponsorship from the Wisconsin Geriatric Education Center.

Find more information on the Solomon Carter Fuller Memory Screening event here.