CHICAGO (CBS) — Studies show the most common cause of dementia is also hitting the Latino community the hardest. On Friday a Chicago summit offered help to the group least likely to seek it out.
For Perla Castro scrolling through memories is bittersweet. She holds memories with her mother close because her mother no longer remembers.READ MORE: Police, CPS Increase School Safety Measures After Shootings Kill 2 Simeon Career Academy Students, Social Media Threats Appear Directed At Simeon And Other Schools
“My mom said ‘hi’ to us twice. She’d walk in, say ‘give mom a kiss’ and half an hour later she’d say, ‘What time did you come? You didn’t say hi to me,” Perla said. “Little did we know what a monster this is.”
Her mother is one of roughly 6.2 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s disease, which eats away at the brain function and memories.
“She was diagnosed when she was 53, and the symptoms had started a lot earlier,” Perla said. “We live with this every day because she’s still fighting.”
And so is Perla. She is fighting for her 70-year-old mother Lesbia Castro, for her family, and for all the Latinos struggling in secret.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation says Latinos are 50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than non Latinos.READ MORE: Illinois Attorney General's Office Holds Virtual Town Hall As It Begins Investigation Into Death Of Eric Lurry In Joliet Police Custody
The Institute on Aging reports that while Latinos are the most likely to get the disease, they are also least likely to get help, due to a complicated cocktail of factors including language and financial barriers and cultural beliefs.
“We didn’t see a Latino community,” said Perla. “It felt like no one was talking about it. And when I did, people in the community would dismiss it and say, ‘Oh it’s just age’ or ‘Sleep on it. Maybe God is trying to tell you something.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, God is trying to tell me there’s something wrong with my mom.”
And that is exactly why Perla, whose family is Guatemalan, is sharing her story, not just with CBS 2 but also with the first ever Chicago Latino Healthy Brain Summit. In both English and Spanish, Castro and doctors explained brain health early warning signs and ways of both staving off and coping with the disease that so far has no cure.
“It’s been hard emotionally, physically, financially. Mom needs help with feeding, getting her exercises, her medications, bathing. It’s difficult in every way,” Perla said. “But we'[re talking about this because there’s a lot of stigma in the Latino community. We need to talk about it so we can help each other through this.”
It is expected that by 200 the number of Latinos with Alzheimer’s will quadruble to 3.5 million.Chicago Weather: Warm Winds Friday