beyond the video

Alzheimer's and African Americans
Support and Education

Video summary
In this second series of video excerpts about African-Americans and Alzheimer's disease, the focus is on support and education. It features the same caregivers and people with dementia, and one new expert, Tanwa Suma, Outreach Coordinator for the Greater Maryland Alzheimer's Association.

Ms. Suma describes support groups as the one place caregivers of people with dementia can go and know they will be truly understood. They discover that they are not alone in their situation, their challenges or their feelings, and that can be a huge relief.

Cordelia Davis says that going to a support group was a lifesaver for her. The first thing she learned was that "It's okay to laugh at the things my parents did." She didn't laugh at her parents, but when she shared things that happened with her sister, and they could laugh together, she found it was a huge release. Dementia is a serious condition, but funny things happen.

Ms. Suma also notes that support groups provide education. Caregivers learn not to try arguing or reasoning and to pick their battles. If your husband thinks it's Saturday and you know it's Wednesday, most of the time that would not be something worth arguing about. Learning to "just let it go" can be a vital stress reliever.

And relieving stress is the third important function of support groups. Physicians know that when they are treating someone with dementia, there are really two patients, the person with the disease and his or her caregiver. Caregivers frequently neglect their own health as they try to deal with both the physical demands of caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia, and the emotional strain of slowly losing their loved one to the disease. As one caregiver emphasized, you need family, friends and outside help: "You can't do it all."

Applying the video to your situation

If you are a caregiver for someone with dementia, are you also a member of a support group to help you cope? If so, what benefits have you gained from it? If not, what would it take to get you to join one? ( can help you find the services offered by your local Alzheimer's chapter.)

Many caregivers find that the other people in their support group become their new best friends, because they are finally with people who understand what they are going through. Has that been true for you?

Have you ever found that laughter is the best medicine? Describe how you have tapped into your sense of humor as a caregiver.

Support groups are also a source of learning new skills. What tricks or techniques have you learned from being part of a support group?

Mr. Morton says that he worries he might die before his wife does, and then what would she do? He answers that his daughters would step in and his wife would be all right, but that isn't really a good solution for anyone. As a caregiver, what are you doing for yourself each day to stay physically and mentally healthy?

Several people emphasize the need to find additional help. Who helps you?

Mrs. Muldrew notes that dementia is a community problem, eventually affecting many more people than the hands-on caregivers. She feels that the community needs to be educated about Alzheimer's disease and related forms of dementia. Does your community have an education program? If so, describe it. If not, how can people in your area become better educated?

Adapted from Alzheimer's and African-Americans: Echoes from the Past, Campbell Productions.

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Beyond the Video

Many caregivers find that the other people in their support group become their new best friends, because they are finally with people who understand what they are going through.