Dementia in the Asian community
The Asian community is very diverse, so it is difficult to draw conclusions on how different genetic, cultural, and environmental factors contribute to dementia in these populations.
One 2018 study noted the Filipino community had the most cases of dementia within the Asian population over the course of a 14-year investigation. However, the authors noted that Filipino Americans, and the Asian community overall, had lower rates of dementia than white Americans.
Read on to learn more about dementia in the Asian community, including prevalence figures and the potential stigma around this condition.
Prevalence of dementia in the Asian community
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of Asian Americans who are 65 years or older account for 8.4% of Alzheimer’s cases and other dementias.
The CDC also notes that as the population grows, Alzheimer’s cases will increase substantially in minority communities. Because of this, it is important that the Asian community and other populations do not face discrimination from healthcare professionals.
The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 34% of Asian Americans have experienced some form of discrimination when seeking Alzheimer’s care. The rate among white Americans was much lower, at 9%.
Combatting discrimination will result in a better quality of life for the person living with Alzheimer’s disease. It will also help their families understand the level of care a person requires as their condition progresses.
Prevalence of dementia within different Asian communities
Historically, dementia research within the Asian population only focused on Japanese Americans or the Asian community as a whole. This meant Chinese, Filipino, and South Asian Americans were underrepresented, and researchers knew little about how dementia affected these groups.
In order to change this, one 2018 study collected data across a 14-year period within several Asian populations, which included:
- Chinese Americans
- Japanese Americans
- Filipino Americans
They also created a South Asian subgroup, which included:
- Indian Americans
- Pakistani Americans
- Bangladeshi Americans
- Sri Lankan or Nepalese Americans
When comparing rates of dementia among Asian Americans, they discovered the Filipino community had the highest rate of dementia, followed by Japanese and Chinese populations. South Asian Americans had the lowest rate of dementia.
All Asian Americans had lower rates of dementia than white Americans.
The researchers note that more studies are necessary to understand how different dementia risk factors, such as genetic and environmental influences, affect the Asian population.
Does dementia carry a stigma in the Asian community?
Dementia does carry some stigma within the Asian community. A 2017 study found that Chinese Americans reported “being embarrassed” about having a relative with Alzheimer’s disease.
There were also negative reactions around people with Alzheimer’s disease moving into a nursing home, which researchers observed in 30% of the sampled Asian American population. Indian, Vietnamese, and Filipino Americans, in particular, held the most negative views about nursing home placement. However, this attitude was low among Korean Americans.
Other noteworthy beliefs in these communities were that Alzheimer’s disease is a natural part of aging, and related to fate.
Does stigma have a negative impact on dementia outcomes?
In general, Alzheimer’s disease stigma has a correlation with worse mental health outcomes, isolation, and a poorer quality of life. Furthermore, when people experience stigma, they are less likely to ask for help, which can delay treatment.
Researchers observed similar outcomes specifically in Asian communities and found Asian Americans were more likely to isolate themselves and not seek medical advice if they felt embarrassed about having dementia. This was also a common behavior in people who thought dementia was part of the natural aging process.
Overcoming dementia stigma
Dementia stigma arises from a lack of understanding and awareness about the condition. Consequently, educating people about dementia is an effective way to combat negative attitudes.
One 2016 study found older Chinese Americans held fewer stigmatizing views and understood the condition better when they perceived dementia as a mental health condition.
However, the authors also noted that Chinese Americans often thought dementia was an inevitable consequence of aging, which was another barrier to seeking help in addition to stigma.
Changing these perceptions will be especially important when rates of dementia increase, as the Chinese American population grows.
Education and early symptom management
Asian American families experience a disproportionate impact when caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.
One significant barrier to care is a lack of access to resources that could help them spot early dementia symptoms.
A 2021 study outlined several topics of education that could help Asian families detect the early stages of dementia, so they can get medical help sooner.
These dementia topics include:
- the process of aging
- how different dementia conditions present
- early and later stage dementia symptoms
- how to care for someone with dementia
- stress management
Another important aspect of dementia care is ensuring people are aware of the financial and social resources available in their area.
Rates of dementia vary between different Asian American populations. As an overall group, Asian Americans account for 8.4% of dementia-related cases, which is lower than other populations in the U.S.
In comparison with white Americans, Asian Americans report more discrimination when seeking dementia treatment.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease carry some stigma in Asian American communities, which can delay the time it takes for someone to receive treatment and lead to worse health outcomes.
An effective method to reduce stigma is to make dementia resources more accessible, so people can learn more about the condition.