Dr. Bruce Finke, Elder Health Consultant with the Indian Health Service, discusses the Rx Foundation funded REACH into Indian Country initiative in his November 2017 blog post for National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.
We don’t know exactly how many older American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people have the slowly progressing memory problems and difficulties in activities of daily living that we know as dementia, but we do know that in every Tribal community there are people with dementia and family members and others caring for them. High rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and traumatic brain injury and the aging of the AI/AN population likely add to the burden of dementia in AI/AN communities. Health professionals working in Indian Country tell us that in AI/AN communities, as in the U.S. population as a whole, dementia is often not recognized and when it is recognized it is often more advanced.
Dr. Finke discusses the IHS partnership with the Memphis Caregiver Center at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center to provide training and resources to public health nurses, community health representatives and other support staff in more than 50 communities. Once trained, staff can become certified Caregiver Coaches, with skills and tools to support family members who are caring for elders with demential.
Care for the caregiver is one of the most effective and important treatments available for persons living with dementia. With REACH into Indian Country, the IHS is working to bring that treatment to every tribal community. Click here for more information on REACH into Indian Country .