Latinos Face ‘incoming Tsunami' of Alzheimer's Cases Among Elders

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Florence Marquez liked to describe herself as a cannery worker, even though she was best known in her heavily Latino East San Jose neighborhood as a community activist. She strode alongside Cesar Chavez in the farmworker movement during the 1960s and '70s. She helped build affordable housing for poor families near her local church.But eight years ago, Florence, now 86, couldn't find her way to the house she had lived in for 50 years. "That's when we knew she needed 24-hour care," said her oldest daughter, Barbara Marquez, 61.Florence was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, which robbed her of her memory and her fierce independence. Across the United States, stories like hers are becoming more common, particularly among Latinos -- the fastest growing minority in the country.With no cure in sight, the number of U.S. Latinos with Alzheimer's is expected to rise by more than eight times by 2060, to 3.5 million, according to a report by the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging and the Latinos Against Alzheimer's network.Advanced age is the leading risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's doubles about every five years after age 65. As a group, Latinos are at least 50 percent more likely than whites to have Alzheimer's, in part because they tend to live longer, the report notes."This is an incoming tsunami," said Dr. William Vega, one of the report's authors and the Roybal Institute's executive director. "If we don't find breakthrough medication, we are going to be facing a terrible financial crisis."That tidal wave of Alzheimer's cases is prompting some tough conversations in Latino families, who often pride themselves on caring for elders at home, rather than placing them in nursing homes.  Continue reading...

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