Dementia can affect anybody, and access to diagnosis, treatment and care should be the same for everybody. How can it be, then, that people from ethnic minorities often go later to a specialist for diagnosis and treatment of dementia?
A group of scientists conducted a systematic review of the literature on the topic and they found out there are significant barriers to access to dementia care and treatment for ethnic minorities, despite some of them being more affected by dementia proportionally, as is the case of the African-Caribbean in the UK. Furthermore, African-Americans are 30% less likely than non-Hispanic white people to be prescribed cholinesterase inhibitors. How can this be?
The researchers pointed towards a series of factors:
- Lack of awareness: in general, many interviewees of a number of studies taken into consideration in the review, believed that dementia is caused by normal ageing.
- Stigma and cultural pressure: not surprisingly, there is a lot of stigma surrounding dementia. This prevents many from accessing care. Furthermore, caring for a family member is often perceived as a duty, and seeking for external help may, therefore, be seen unfavourably.
- Healthcare related barriers: a considerable number of people reported negative experiences when actually trying to access care, such as discrimination, dismissal of symptoms, language barriers, and a general lack of clarity of who to ask for help or how.
The researchers were also able to identify what, on the opposite, facilitated access to care: knowledge. Being informed on dementia, either through reading or speaking about it is key to facilitating seeking help.
Sadly, the researchers point out how people from ethnic minorities do not access care or request help until they reach a crisis point and coping is no longer an option.
All this seems to point out that, yes, ethnic minorities, have it harder when it comes to access dementia care. We personally believe that everybody should have that right, regardless of ethnicity, gender, economic income and knowledge.
Source: Mukadam, N. (2011), A systematic review of ethnicity and pathways to care in dementia, International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26(1), pp. 12-20.