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Journal of Social Change

Abstract

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a significant public health concern for all elders in the United States. It is a particular concern for the American Indian (AI) population, which is one of the fastest aging populations in the United States and the smallest, most underrecognized, and most culturally diverse group in the country. A formal caregiver understanding of AD in the AI population is scarce. This phenomenological study was designed to discern what is known about AD in the AI population by exploring the cultural beliefs and experiences of formal caregivers who provide care for AI dementia patients. Specifically, this study sought to document formal caregiver and AI dementia beliefs about AD. Data came from four in-depth interviews that included three Western and one AI formal caregiver. These interviews explored the variability of cultural beliefs regarding AD and dementia among a sample of formal caregivers who minister to AI patients; in the interviews, these participants also provided examples of challenges they faced, providing a better cultural understanding of AI dementia. The findings included using a bicultural approach to AD, illuminating interactions between patient and provider, and fostering awareness of cultural competency. Research on this topic is critical in advancing cultural, public health, and evidence-based health practices regarding AI dementia patients. The potential implications for social change include enhancing cross cultural provider–patient interactions and advancing public health policy and practice for this underserved population. Many of the issues and challenges explored may have implications for other ethnocultural minority groups.

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