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WNY Alzheimer's Association conference for Black caregivers set for Feb. 24

Buffalo News - 2/10/2024

Feb. 9—Older African Americans are twice as likely as whites to develop Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, which presents unique challenges for those who care for them.

The Western New York Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association aims to help loved ones address those challenges later this month, when it hosts its Fourth Annual Black Caregivers Conference.

"As someone who cared for a loved one with dementia, I know how difficult it can be," said Buffalo City Comptroller Barbara Miller-Williams, who got help from the regional chapter and now serves on its board of directors.

The reasons why Black Americans are more susceptible to Alzheimer's are complex, said Andrea Koch, director of education and training with the association. Some studies on cardiovascular health reveal that older African Americans tend to suffer more from cardiovascular diseases that can also contribute to poor brain health, she told The Buffalo News, but that doesn't account for the full difference.

"There's some research going into socioeconomic status, access to quality health care, diet, along with the impact of racism throughout one's lifespan," Koch said

Some studies are looking into a concept she called "weathering," which seeks to measure the stress associated with repeated exposure to racism, which can lead to the premature aging of cells in Black Americans that ultimately lead to poorer health outcomes.

"The research is still ongoing," she said.

The free conference runs from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.Feb. 24 at the Frank E. Merriweather Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave., or online. During the conference, national guest speakers will address the challenges faced by communities of color when caring for loved ones with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. Speakers include Ashley Stevens, also known as "the Dementia Guru"; Beverly Berry, national director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Alzheimer's Association; and Carleara Weiss, a registered nurse-scientist and professor at the University at Buffalo.

A free caregiver resource fair will feature representatives from the Erie County Department of Senior Services, UBMD Neurology, the Center for Elder Law & Justice, and the Buffalo Urban League's Community Mental Health Promotion and Support team.

Members of caregiver support groups that meet once a month at the Merriweather Library and Westminster Community House also are expected at the in-person event, Koch said.

"The support groups are great," she said, "because you get a chance to talk to peers, and other people who are living it and can kind of share their experiences, warts and all, and speak in a really honest, authentic way about what they're going through, and kind of laugh about it sometimes and share their victories and share their struggles."


Alzheimer's Disease

Dementia Among Blacks


Alzheimer's Association




The Economy




Andrea Koch

Director Of Education And Training For The Alzheimer's Association




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