First dementia prevalence data of older lesbian, gay and bisexual adults

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The first dementia prevalence data collected from a large group of older gay, lesbian and bisexual adults was presented on July 23, 2018 at the International Conference of the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago.

The research team consisting of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, Oakland worked with 3,718 lesbian, gay and bisexual older than 60 years and examined how prevalent dementia was amongst them.

The follow-up time period was 9 years and the overall prevalence of dementia came out to be 7.4 percent. Scientists think that high rates of depression, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases in the study group might be the reason behind this high percentage of dementia prevalence.

Jason Flatt, Assistant Professor at the Institute for Health & Aging at the School of Nursing, University of California said, “Though our new findings provide important initial insights, future studies aimed at better understanding risk and risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementias in older sexual minorities are greatly needed.”

“Issue Brief: LGBT and Dementia,” a publication from the Alzheimer’s Association and SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders) report that currently there are 2.7 million adults who are over 50 years old, and the number is likely to rise dramatically in the next 15 years.

Previous studies have suggested that there is a high risk of LGBTQ+ populations to be diagnosed with diseases like hypertension, depression and also to have high levels of cholesterol and blood pressure- all of which are risk factors for stroke related dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The new finding also supported the same.

“Our findings highlight the need for culturally competent healthcare and practice for older sexual minorities at risk for, or currently living with, Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. There are also important implications for meeting the long-term care services and caregiving needs of this community. Given the concerns of social isolation and limited access to friend and family caregivers, there is a strong need to create a supportive healthcare environment and caregiving resources for sexual minority adults living with dementia,” added Flatt.

And Flatt is right, a person belonging to the LGBTQ+ community usually face quite a lot of difficulties when trying to gain access to unbiased healthcare. Several previously done studies report that the LGBTQ+ adults are less likely to contact hospitals to access essential services like visiting nurses, senior centers, meal plans etc., than others.

Some of the recommendations in the Issue Brief suggest that organizations and various service providers help older LGBTQ+ adults to educate themselves on the risk of developing dementia and create support groups that cater especially to these adults. Other factors such as financial planning and assistance from local political organizations should also be taken under consideration.

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