Road Map for Indian Country

Eight public health strategies can help American Indian and Alaska Native communities learn about and begin planning their response to dementia.

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The population of older American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) is growing — and quickly. Between 2014–2060, the number of AI/ANs aged 65 and older living with dementia is projected to grow over five times. These longer lives give more time for older generations to share knowledge and traditions with the next. But greater age brings increased risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias (when memory and thinking problems interfere with daily life and activities). People living with this chronic condition gradually need more help caring for themselves. Family members, from the young to the old, play a vital role in caring for relatives with dementia. This care may include managing medications, bathing and feeding, paying bills and cleaning, and help going to appointments or social events.

The impact of dementia is felt by multiple generations, but there are ways to lessen this impact. As tribal health and aging leaders become concerned about the growing problem of dementia, they can build on strengths in their cultures and traditions, which provide unique opportunities to improve the lives of older adults living with dementia, their families, and their communities.

The Healthy Brain Initiative (HBI) Road Map for Indian Country is a guide for AI/AN leaders to learn about dementia and start discussions throughout their communities. The guide offers an introduction to Alzheimer's and other dementias, and it highlights data from Indian Country that help define the challenge of dementia across AI/AN communities.The Road Map for Indian Country suggests eight strategies that embrace community strengths. The strategies can be tailored to the unique priorities of each community. An executive summary of the Road Map is available now, and the full Road Map will be released in mid-May.

Healthy Brain Initiative Road Map

State and local public health agencies can realize a better future for all communities impacted by Alzheimer’s.

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Public health strategies to care for an aging population

The Healthy Brain Initiative’s Road Map for Indian Country is tailored for leaders of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities as they develop a broad response to Alzheimer’ and other dementias. Eight public health strategies are suggested as a starting point for discussion, deliberation, and cross-sector collaboration. Tribal leaders are encouraged to discuss these strategies with their community and involve members in planning and implementing these community-wide approaches. Collectively, the strategies aim to improve health and welling in Indian Country, address cognitive impairment, and help support AI/AN dementia caregivers.

One strategy in the new Road Map is educating tribal community members about brain health. AI/AN leaders can readily implement this strategy by using the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials’ Healthy Heart, Healthy Brain communication materials on the connection between brain health and heart health.

A Dissemination Guide contains quick and ready media engagement templates to help spread the word about the Road Map for Indian Country. The guide includes media templates, sample social media posts, talking points and key facts.

Developing the Road Map for Indian Country

The Healthy Brain Initiative’s (HBI) Road Map for Indian Country was shaped by many experts and leaders throughout Indian Country who provided guidance, reviewed documents, and shared their experience addressing dementia and helping caregivers. These AI/AN leaders recognized Alzheimer’s and other dementias as a serious and growing problem. They wanted to learn more about dementia and ways to promote wellness across generations and prepare for the future. This expert input helped shape the Road Map for Indian Country into a guide that AI/AN communities could tailor and generate their own solutions based on the community’s priorities and unique heritage.

Explore the issues in-depth

Find resources and examples to drive action on 11 Alzheimer’s-specific public health issues.

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Developed as a companion to the Healthy Brain Initiative State and Local Public Health Partnerships to Address Dementia: The 2018-2023 Road Map, the Road Map for Indian Country is designed as a conversation starter. This guide is intended to further discussion among American Indian and Alaska Native leaders on how to best serve the needs of their tribal elders, their families, and enhance the quality of life for those impacted by Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

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Sign up for Alzheimer’s Public Health News to stay up-to-date on the Road Map for Indian Country including forthcoming resources to help guide conversations about cognitive health. Please encourage interested colleagues and peers to subscribe to learn about opportunities for leadership.

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Implementation

State University of New York-Plattsburgh To support caregivers in the St. Regis Mohawk Nation, an Alzheimer's Navigator delivers education and coordinates support groups throughout the area. Additional services (including respite, transportation assistance, and caregiving training) are offered.
AZ Banner Alzheimer's Institute The Banner Native American Outreach program increases awareness of Alzheimer's and other dementias among Arizona's American Indian communities, and works to establish better connections among tribal health organizations and urban Indian communities.
OR Tribal Health Agencies Tribal health agencies added a session on caregiving for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in their annual caregiver summit.

 
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Resources

Indian Country Resources

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Communicating in Indian Country: Healthy Brain, Healthy Heart
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Healthy Brain, Healthy Heart (flyers)
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Healthy Brain, Healthy Heart (posters)
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Healthy Brain, Healthy Heart (provider guide)
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Healthy Heart is a Healthy Mind (PSA)
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Older Minds Matter in Indian Country (PSA)
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Take Action to Care for Your Heart and Mind (PSA)
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials Talk with Your Doctor About Aging and Brain Health (PSA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Caregiving Among American Indian/Alaska Native Adults
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Subjective Cognitive Decline Among American Indian/Alaska Native Adults
Native America Calling Caring for Relatives with Dementia
Tribal Outreach Partnerships for Native Health
Wake Forest Alzheimer's Disease Center Still Here
Wake Forest School of Medicine, Alzheimer's Disease Core Center Memory Loss and Alzheimer's Disease in Native People