September is World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and the Alzheimer’s Association is asking everyone to “help fight the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s disease, educate others about the disease, and begin to change the way we look at Alzheimer’s.“ Some of the ways they are suggesting to achieve these goals is by speaking up about Alzheimer’s, sharing your story, and visiting alz.org/WAM for tips. (1)
For American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) Elders, the Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services states that, ”Alzheimer’s disease is growing into an epidemic and is expected to become a prominent health issue for AI/AN communities in the coming years. Understanding and taking a proactive stance to address these challenges offers the most effective solution to this emerging issue.” They go on to say that “More research on and additional outreach and education efforts for AI/AN communities is needed to increase knowledge, awareness, and support for Native people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia…A greater emphasis on the AI/AN community is necessary to effectively address Alzheimer’s and dementia, along with other health disparities, that have plagued a population that has already been overlooked and underserved for far too long.” (2)
One Approach to Addressing AI/AN Elders with Alzheimer’s
In 2012 the article, Native Approach to Dementia Emphasizes Human Spirit, provided insight into how one person is attempting to address Alzheimer’s. David Maes, of Hopi/Apache descent, established the nonprofit Taawa Energy Center (Taawa) in Denver in order to focus on care that uses the essence of the person for healing. An excerpt from the article:
Maes himself views those with Alzheimer’s in a unique way: He believes that “among aboriginal and Native people, those with dementia [of which Alzheimer’s is one form] are the spiritual people, beginning to leave this world to enter a world where everything is positive and good. There’s no judgment in that world.”
His approach to healing involved the initial step of bringing together traditional healers, some of whom are regarded as medicine men, and others from Denver’s Indian community for their input and support for Taawa and its methods.
A second part of preparing for Taawa’s healing method involved a conference call via Skype among the local healers, aboriginal leaders and those involved in Dementia Care Australia’s Spark of Life approach, which “complements the traditional Native healing ways practiced by spiritual/medicine people for generations,” according to the Australian program that has inspired Maes.
Generally, Maes said, the focus changes from management of disease to caring for the whole person. Among services Taawa will offer are creating family teams, or small supporting learning groups; conducting talking circles; and performing ceremony for the community, family care teams and individuals. (3)
To read the full article and learn more about Maes and his approach on healing, Alzheimer’s, and dementia go to https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/native-approach-to-dementia-emphasizes-human-spirit/
- Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://www.alz.org/northcentraltexas/in_my_community_59904.asp
- Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (2016, May 13). Emerging LTSS Issues in Indian Country: Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/American-Indian-Alaska-Native/AIAN/LTSS-TA-Center/pdf/CMS-319_LR-BP-MiniTopics_Alzheimers-and-Dementia.pdf
- Berry, C. (2012, July 23). Native Approach to Dementia Emphasizes Human Spirit. Retrieved September 25, 2017, from https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/native-approach-to-dementia-emphasizes-human-spirit/