This is the disease where our parents become our children

By Marissa Volpe, Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator, Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado

Mairik Adult Day Center in Centennial, Colorado, is not your typical strip mall shop. It has a bit of United Nations feel to it.

Nestled between a post office and a gluten free bakery, refugee elders from places like Burma, Bhutan and Nepal gather at the Russian-run facility to share meals, exercise and maintain community ties.

I was invited to the adult day center by Brandy Kramer, Spring Institute’s Project Shine coordinator. “Could the Alzheimer’s Association possibly teach a few classes to these aging populations?” asked Brandy. “Gladly,” I replied.

One of the best aspects of working in Diversity and Inclusion for the Alzheimer’s Association is the opportunity to not only serve diverse communities living with Alzheimer’s disease, but the challenge of matching outreach efforts to meet the needs of communities.20100812_flores_la_0286.jpg

For Mairik, we designed our outreach efforts to take place after the midday meal and a few exercises. I arrived at each session to the smells of aromatic rice and legume dishes. After lunch, I proceeded to lead groups with a few simple stretches, explaining to the group that healthy diet and exercise are paramount to brain health.

Then, we’d start in about Alzheimer’s disease, the warning signs and possible ways to reduce the risk of it. Working with community translators, we navigated language and cultural questions.

“So, this is the disease where our parents become our children,” expressed one elder.  Elders wanted to know about loved ones leaving stoves turned on and wandering. “Why does this happen?” “Is there something we can do?”

I explained the importance of warning signs and letting medical professionals know about them. And I encouraged the use of the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline with translation services in over 180 languages.fullsizerender

And then we’d talk about what we could do to reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Drawing on the strengths of these community oriented societies emphasizing strong community ties, whole foods, socialization and exercise, I smiled to know so much of what the Alzheimer’s Association prescribes as “healthy living” is already underway in what appears to be an otherwise unassuming strip mall shop!

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