native american in nursing home

During Native American Heritage Month, we’re celebrating American Indian and Alaska Natives and their important work to raise Alzheimer’s awareness & better health within their communities, moving us closer to a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. 

Native Americans are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia than White or Asian Americans. At the same time, American Indians overall have less access to healthcare and health services and are less likely to be diagnosed once they show symptoms, creating unique challenges in addressing Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In addition, Native American cultures hold great esteem for Elders and are more likely to take care of their Elders at home. This may create stress for caregivers.

  • As many as 1 in 3 Native American Elders will develop Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.
  • Between 2020 and 2060, the number of American Indian/Alaska Native individuals aged 65 and older living with dementia is projected to increase four-fold. 
  • The vast majority (92%) of Native Americans say that it is important for Alzheimer’s and dementia care providers to understand their ethnic or racial background and experiences. However, only 49% of Native Americans say that they have access to culturally competent providers. 
  • 61% of Native Americans say that affordability of care is a barrier.
  • More than one-fourth (27%) of Native American caregivers report being treated with less respect than others.
  • Four in 10 (40%) of Native Americans believe that medical research is biased against people of color and only 65% believe that an Alzheimer’s cure will be shared fairly, regardless of race, color or ethnicity. 

The Alzheimer’s Association partners with several organizations to better serve all communities in the United States, including the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA), to promote Alzheimer’s awareness and care and support resources to American Indian individuals from 574 tribes across the country.

The Indian Health Service (IHS), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2.6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to 574 federally recognized tribes in 37 states. Its goal is to raise the health status of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest possible level. The Alzheimer’s Association and the IHS will work together to address and improve the health and well-being of American Indians and Alaska Natives living with Alzheimer’s disease and all other dementias and their caregivers.

In 2019, the Alzheimer’s Association and the CDC collaborated on the The Healthy Brain Initiative (HBI) Road Map for Indian Country, the first-ever public health guide focused on dementia in Native American communities. Success stories highlight how tribes can utilize the Road Map to improve health outcomes. The International Association for Indigenous Aging (IASquared) is a partner of the HBI and serves as a hub of information and resources on Alzheimer’s and other dementia serving Indian country.

At the Alzheimer’s Association, we believe that diverse perspectives are critical to achieving health equity — meaning that all communities have a fair and just opportunity for early diagnosis and access to risk reduction and quality care. The Association is committed to engaging underrepresented and underserved communities and responding with resources and education to address the disproportionate impact of Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

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The Alzheimer’s Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementias.