Changing the narrative: Health professionals work to change stigma about Alzheimer's among Latinos

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Posted at 12:35 PM, Mar 15, 2022

SAN ANTONIO — Marylou and Arturo Rodriguez met in high school in San Antonio, Texas. They were married soon after graduation, and next month they’ll celebrate 59 years together.

A few years ago, they noticed Marylou was forgetting things. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease run in her immediate family.

“This was the beginning of our dark days,” said Arturo.

Arturo says the disease has progressed to where Marylou sometimes forgets things within minutes. So, he often has to repeat things.

"I’ve heard other cases where there have been people that have forgetfulness or Alzheimer’s and stuff I’ve had experience with other people having it and you have husbands wives children [say] I already told you that,” said Marylou.

“It just makes you less of a person when someone tells you stuff like that, [but] not him, he just answers a question over and over again.”

Arturo says that hasn’t always been the case with medical professionals and her diagnosis. As an 80-year-old, Hispanic man, he’s experienced discrimination before but refuses to allow his wife to be treated that way by health professionals.

The Alzheimer’s Association is trying to break cultural stigmas and biases in the Latino community. It’s building partnerships with groups like the National Association of Hispanic Nurses and the National Hispanic Medical Association. They host conferences geared specifically to Latinos.

“This is a grassroots effort we have to change the narrative within the community," Maria Carrillo, Chief Science Officer at the Alzheimer’s Association said.

The Alzheimer’s Association also actively recruits Hispanic Americans to make up nearly 1/3 of participants in a brain scan study.

“Discrimination was a significant barrier across all groups that we studied, but in particular for Hispanic Americans," Carrillo said.

For now, Marylou and Arturo both want health professionals, and everyone involved in Dementia care to learn how to treat them properly.