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Study reveals significant racial and ethnic disparities in dementia care

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A new study has revealed significant disparities in healthcare quality among dementia patients, with some racial and ethnic groups less likely to receive an accurate and timely diagnosis or medication

Researchers from UC Davis Health and Oregon Health & Science University have found that people living with dementia from minoritised racial and ethnic populations are less likely to receive an accurate and timely dementia diagnosis compared to non-Hispanic whites. They were also less likely to be prescribed anti-dementia medication or use hospice care.

The researchers defined minoritized populations as those marginalized due to systemic oppression.

In addition, the study, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, found the same populations have a higher risk of hospitalisation and receive more aggressive life-sustaining treatment in end-of-life care.

The researchers conducted a scoping review, identifying and analysing the results of 71 research studies conducted between 2000 and 2022. The studies examined health care access and quality for people with dementia and their caregivers. The studies reported findings related to race and ethnicity.

Statistically significant differences                                        

Of the 71 studies identified, all but one reported one or more statistically significant differences between racial and ethnic groups. For example:

  • 85.9% of the studies reported findings for Black Americans.
  • 57.7% for Hispanic Americans.
  • 25.4% for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • 2.8% for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
  • 32.4% reported aggregate categories for non-white populations.

The most frequently addressed topics in the papers were medication treatment (38%), end-of-life care (22.5%), health service use (18.3%), diagnosis (15.5%), family caregiving (7%) and long-term care (5.6%).

Ladson Hinton, first author of the study and a professor in the UC Davis Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, said: “Reducing disparities in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and receiving timely, high-quality health care services is essential to advance health equity.

“Our review provides timely and compelling evidence of disparities in health care quality and access for people living with dementia from minoritised populations.

It also highlights significant gaps in data, particularly for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and American Indians and Alaska Natives populations

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