This summer, the Chinese Dementia Initiative will begin offering support groups for Mandarin-speakers and increasing communication geared specifically toward the Chinese community living within El Camino Hospital's service area.
The initiative is sponsored by the hospital district's Community Benefit Plan, which has allotted $60,000 to be used for (among other things) advertisements in the Mandarin-language newspaper, The World Journal, and to fund support groups led by Mandarin-speaking facilitators.
"There is a fairly large Chinese population in our area, and many of the older people in that population speak Mandarin," said Cecile Currier, vice president of professional corporate and community health services for ECH.
The effort is a part of El Camino Hospital's broader Chinese Health Initiative, launched in early 2011.
One in eight people over the age of 65 have Alzheimer's, Currier said, and about 100,000 in the Bay Area have the disease. Breaking that number down into subgroups, about 25 percent are Asian, she said. Though Currier is not sure how many among that 25 percent are of Chinese decent, she does know that of all the Asian cultures living in the district's service area, the Chinese population is the largest.
"Teaching in Mandarin is really important," Currier said, and not only because some of the at-risk Chinese seniors living in the area do not speak English. Even for people who English as a second language, it is much more comfortable if services are offered by someone who speaks their native language and understands their culture.
Although people from all over the world may find it difficult to confront mental illness, Currier said, the stigma surrounding Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia is "rather pronounced in Asian cultures."
"It's not thought of so much as a biological disease," she said. Rather, an afflicted individual may be considered "crazy." Because of this, families may keep those suffering from dementia at home, when they could be getting valuable treatment.
Currier said the money from the community fund is intended to help the Alzheimer's Foundation get the word out. The funding is also to be used to provide guidance for caregivers, as well as to help family members learn how to help ailing parents and grandparents.
More information can be found by visiting the Alzheimer's Association website at alz.org, or calling the Mountain View headquarters of the Alzheimer's Association's local chapter at 962-8111.