By Edwina Blackwell Clark
Cheryl Cain Scroggins vividly recalls a heart-wrenching conversation she had with Anthony Whitmore, president of MLK-Dayton, Inc., this past fall. His mother had recently died from Alzheimer’s disease and he recounted his journey as her caregiver. She asked him if he was aware of the resources at the Alzheimer’s Association. His response, she said, “‘I really wish I had known.’”
New initiative the MLK Dayton Health Committee
So, this year, MLK-Dayton, Inc. is starting a new initiative – the MLK Dayton Health Committee – to educate people in the Miami Valley about health issues. One focus of the initiative will be raising awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and the resources available to help families better deal with a diagnosis. “How can we reach the people we touch with this valuable information?” Cain Scroggins said. “I could just hear the despair that he had. When I meet people in the community suffering from Alzheimer’s or I meet the caregivers, I think of all the things you’ll (the Miami Valley Alzheimer’s Association) do and I say ‘have you heard about the Alzheimer’s Association?’”
MLK Dayton, Inc. is a multi-racial, multi-ethnic organization that works, through a series of events, to inspire people to act on the vision of social justice created by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Cain Scroggins, who is Community Coordinator of Health Equity for Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County’s Dayton Council on Health Equity, and Lorna Chouinard, Vice President of Programs and Operations for the Alzheimer’s Association, Miami Valley, are co-chairing the MLK Dayton Health Committee.
Chouinard said, “We need to raise awareness of minority health and all health in the community. We need people to understand the different perspectives, but the desire for good health, we all have that in common.”
With elderly African Americans being twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to white Americans, the inclusion of Alzheimer’s as a focus area is extremely relevant. Cain Scroggins said Alzheimer’s’ disease is one of the top 10 causes of mortality in Montgomery County for all races.
“The conversation around Alzheimer’s in the Hispanic and the African American communities has really risen to the top,” Chouinard said. “Now the focus is how do we really elevate the conversation about Alzheimer’s in all communities, but specifically in the African American and Hispanic communities,” she said.
Alzheimer’s disease is a fatal and progressive type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. In the Miami Valley, 30,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s and there are an estimated 90,000 caregivers.
Among the Health Committee’s goals are to:
- Increase awareness of the Top Ten Causes of Mortality in the Black Community
- Increase awareness of minority health status, and access to programs and services for chronic diseases and social conditions, particularly where disparities exist.
- Increase awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease and access to programs and services
- Increase community participation in identifying and solving issues that impact health, quality and length of life in minority community.
Cain Scroggins is a member of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Program and Diversity Advisory Committee. The Committee advises the Association on how to increase reach and delivery of Alzheimer’s programs and services in minority and diverse communities.
“Locally we are trying to figure out where should we be, where are we not, why not and what will it take to get us there,” Chouinard said.
The MLK Dayton Health Committee plans to offer educational initiatives throughout 2019. For more information about Alzheimer’s disease, call the Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900 or go to alz.org/Dayton.
Edwina Blackwell Clark is Director of Communications for the Alzheimer’s Association, Miami Valley Chapter