UCI MIND Launches Outreach to Chinese Americans

Dr. Malcolm Dick, UCI MIND Senior Neuropsychologist

An overflow crowd of 160 Chinese Americans attended the UC Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorder’s (UCI MIND) first workshop on memory loss targeting this growing ethnic community.  Offered with translation, Memory Loss: Should I Be Concerned? was presented at the Irvine Chinese School on May 4, 2012 by UCI MIND experts, Dr. Malcolm Dick, Senior Neuropsychologist, and Dr. Cordula Dick-Muehlke, Director of Education, with translation support from Florence Huang, M.S.G., Community Liaison.

Located in the heart of Irvine, UCI MIND is serving its local community by reaching out to Asians,
who represent 39.2% of the city’s population, up from 13% in 2000 and second only to Caucasians at 45.1%.  In fact, Asian Americans are now the fastest growing minority group in the United States, surging 46% between 2000 and 2010.  In California alone, the number of Asian Pacific Islanders with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple by 2030 to 194,266, or 17.5% of the total 1,106,650 affected individuals in the state as projected by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Bringing accurate information about memory loss to Asian Americans is critical as diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is typically delayed in this community until the disease is advanced and available treatments have limited benefit due to cultural misconceptions and shame.  As Drs. Dick and Dick-Muehlke shared in their presentation, memory loss is all too often dismissed as “just a normal part of aging” or misattributed to mental illness, karma or fate, retribution for past sins, an imbalance in the body’s complementary forms of energy (i.e., yin and yang), or stress from acculturation problems.

L to R: Dr. Lily Shu, CEO and Principal of the Irvine Chinese School, Dr. Cordula Dick-Muehlke, UCI MIND Director of Education, and Florence Huang, M.S.G., UCI MIND Community Liaison

To counter these cultural misconceptions and encourage earlier identification and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease among Asian Americans, Drs. Dick and Dick-Muehlke described the neuropathological brain changes underlying the cognitive, functional, and behavioral symptoms that typify this dementia; traced the progression from normal aging to Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), a high risk pre-dementia state, and subsequently Alzheimer’s disease; explained the diagnostic process; emphasized the benefits of starting available medications early, and shared key lifestyle strategies (e.g., mental, physical, and social activity) to maintain brain health.

“We have had a longstanding commitment to serving minority patients and their families at our Memory Assessment and Research Center,” noted Dr. Frank LaFerla, Director of UCI MIND.   “We are proud to have played a key role in developing a culturally appropriate battery of cognitive tests to assess memory and thinking abilities, known as the Cross Cultural Neuropsychological Test Battery, that enables us to accurately differentiate MCI and Alzheimer’s disease and from normal aging among individuals with limited English skills.  And, we are grateful to our many partners, like Florence Huang, M.S.G., community liaison and translator, and the Irvine Chinese School, that are making it possible for UCI MIND to successfully reach underserved Chinese Americans.”

The UCI Memory Assessment and Research Center is seeking Chinese Americans who are concerned about memory loss or have been diagnosed with MCI or another mild memory disorder to participate in ongoing research that will help scientists and clinicians better understand differences among various minority populations in the development, progression, and expression of MCI and Alzheimer’s disease.  If you are interested in participating or would like more information, please contact the Memory Assessment and Research Center at (949) 824-2382, Option 4.