How United Community Center is working to fight Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss in the Latinx community of Milwaukee

Participants of the Adult Day Center make decorations for Puerto Rican Discovery Day. (Photo provided by United Community Center)

By Matt Martinez
Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories about fifteen neighborhoods in the city of Milwaukee. Visit

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, a neurological disease that causes memory loss, is difficult for anyone to manage.

But for seniors on the south side of Milwaukee, who may be far from a place they called home and surrounded by a language they didn’t speak growing up, the effects can be even more difficult.

That’s why caregivers at the United Community Center’s Latin Geriatric Center have developed a culturally competent approach to helping the Latinx population of Milwaukee.

“You have to understand someone’s culture, their language, their life story,” said Wendy Betley, senior program director for Wisconsin for the Alzheimer’s Association. “If you understand who this person is, you can provide better care. “

The Latino Geriatric Center, 1028 S. 9th St., provides space for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

It offers services such as the Adult Day Center, which provides a home-like environment for residents aged up to five days a week. Participants indulge in activities such as coloring and fitness exercises while being helped by center staff.

Such efforts are essential for a population heavily affected by the disease. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 13% of Latinx residents in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, a higher rate than that of non-whites. Hispanic.

Services are also scarce. Betley said that due to the low number of people specializing in Alzheimer’s or dementia care, it can be difficult to find people who provide services in Spanish.

The language barrier is just one thing that keeps people from asking for help. Reluctance because of immigration status is another. Undocumented immigrants, for example, may not be entitled to as much financial assistance and may be afraid of institutions.

Dr Piero Antuono, professor of neurology, pharmacology and toxicology at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a volunteer at the Latino Geriatric Center, said a lack of medical insurance creates more complications.

Antuono said the center works to connect with patients and their families.

“You need a level of confidence,” Antuono said. “This confidence comes from knowing you personally. If you don’t have the “personalismo”, they won’t open up to you. “

To diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, doctors and other medical personnel must be able to assess the progression of the disease.

A common test is to identify objects, for example, so that a doctor in the clinic will ask about objects that patients might recognize based on their history.

“With Alzheimer’s disease, the hard part comes after the diagnosis,” Antuono said. “These medical changes are overflowing.”

Ana Castaneda, senior programs manager at the United Community Center, said many people in the community don’t know where to go once a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

One of the most important things, Castaneda said, is to make the center feel right at home.

“It’s hard to trust someone you love,” Castaneda said. “We want people to know that here they are treated like family.”

For more information

Email Ana Castaneda at [email protected] or call 414-384-3100.

Jill E. Washington