Those Americans at highest risk for Alzheimer’s disease – people of color including Native Americans, Hispanics and Blacks – have the greatest concerns about receiving appropriate dementia care, according to two national surveys featured in the Alzheimer’s Association 2021 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report.

The 6.2 million Americans now living with Alzheimer’s disease also face the highest risk for contracting COVID-19 in 2020. That has proven to be true in Montana, where there were 168 more deaths from Alzheimer’s and dementia in 2020 than compared to averages over the past five years – a 17.8% increase.

Nationally, there were at least 42,000 more deaths from Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 2020 compared with averages over the previous five years – a 16% increase.  These are not deaths attributed to COVID-19, but to associated factors.

People living with Alzheimer’s are at greater risk because of the disruption in their routines.

Black Americans are twice as likely as their White counterparts to develop Alzheimer’s disease, while Hispanic Americans are 50% more likely than Whites. Both Blacks and Hispanics have a greater risk of developing hypertension and diabetes, known risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Further, over forty percent of Native Americans and half of Black Americans report having experienced health care discrimination, according to the surveys. One-third of Asian Americans (34%) and Hispanic Americans (33%) likewise report having experienced discrimination when seeking health care related to dementia.

Said Lynn Mullowney Cabrera, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Montana. “If these same people face obstacles in getting a diagnosis or proper care, it compounds the tragedy for these families.”

Additionally, a large number of non-White caregivers for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s reported facing discrimination when navigating health care settings, with the top concern being that health care providers or staff members do not listen to what they’re saying because of their race, color or ethnicity. The concern was especially high among Black caregivers (42%), followed by Native American (31%), Asian American (30%) and Hispanic (28%) caregivers. Only 17% of White caregivers expressed this concern.

For the first time, the annual Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report included a special report, “Race, Ethnicity and Alzheimer’s in America,” which examines perspectives and experiences of Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native and White Americans in regard to Alzheimer’s and dementia care.

Nearly two-thirds of Black Americans (62%) surveyed believe that medical research is biased against people of color — a view shared by substantial numbers of Asian Americans (45%), Native Americans (40%) and Hispanic Americans (36%). Only half of Black Americans (53%) trust that a future cure for Alzheimer’s will be shared equally regardless of race, color or ethnicity.

Montana data

New disease-related statistics for Montana revealed the following:

* Number of Montana residents aged 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s: 22,000

* Estimated number of Montana residents living with Alzheimer’s in 2025: 27,000

* Statewide deaths from Alzheimer’s disease (2019): 326

Death certificates often list acute conditions such as pneumonia as the primary cause of death. As a result, people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias who die due to these acute conditions may not be counted in this number although Alzheimer’s may have been the causative factor.

* Number of Montana residents serving as unpaid family caregivers: 16,000

* Total hours of unpaid care provided in 2020: 24 million

* The number of hours per caregiver in Montana is higher than the national average (28.9 hours per caregiver vs. 26.3 nationally). Family / friend caregivers in Montana provide 135 more hours of care (more than 3 full work weeks) per year than the national average.

* Total value of unpaid care: $425 million


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