During a presentation last week, Dr. Carl Hill from the Alzheimer’s Association reflected on the contributions of the first African American Psychiatrist, Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller. According to blackpast.org, Dr. Fuller was born in 1872 in Monrovia, Liberia. His grandparents were Virginia Slaves who bought their freedom and became medical missionaries in Liberia. Dr. Fuller migrated back to the US to attend college and Medical School, obtaining his medical degree at the Boston University School of medicine in 1897. Six years later in 1903, because of his tremendous work in neuropathology, Dr. Fuller was selected by Alois Alzheimer to be a part of his research team that studied the origins of what we now know as Alzheimer’s Disease.
The article on blackpast.org also mentions the discrimination that Dr. Fuller faced in the form of unequal salaries and underemployment. Had his Grandfather not had the wherewithal to be able to buy their freedom, would we even have a Dr. Solomon Fuller? How many more great minds and hearts of service did we miss because of the institution of slavery? So many questions like this will never be answered. There is no circumstance or institution that warrants comparison. We thank Dr. Fuller for his work, his mind and his heart to want to help make the world a better place, even when the world treated him so poorly.
Fast forward 117 years and here we are. Emancipation happened over a period of two and a half years from 1863 to 1865. The institution of slavery was eliminated at that time, but the system of discrimination and racial inequities still exists. Whether in a disgustingly overt form, or in a lack of awareness, it exists. Overt and unintended have now become one and the same. It’s time to do the work.
The Alzheimer’s Project recognizes it has work to do in this field. We want to support our African-American Caregivers and their loved ones living with the disease. African-Americans are the fastest growing population of Alzheimer’s Patients. Because family members often become the caregivers for those living with Alzheimer’s, this means that the fastest growing population of caregivers is in the African American Community. The Alzheimer’s Project is a resource for Caregivers and those living with the disease. We offer support groups for Caregivers and Respite Care for those living with Alzheimer’s so that Caregivers can get a break for self-care. We also have guides for additional resources. We are here to help. The Alzheimer’s project has 10 respite sites (when fully operational). Six of those are in areas across Leon County with the other 4 in outlying areas. We also offer 15 different sites for Support Groups. Click here to learn more about our services!
We will continue to explore more partnerships and resources in the African American community. Part of the Strategic Plan that we adopted in May included a focus on including more resources for the African American Community. It is not enough to just show up. We have to and want to do the work, do the outreach, do the listening, and most importantly to dedicate the resources to make change possible.
Any caregiver or person living with the disease that comes to our support groups or our respite care should feel safe. That safety is what makes the support groups so valuable. The ability to speak freely and to share and to help each other understand. That safety is also why caregivers can truly engage in self-care when making use of our respite programs. They know that their loved one is going to be treated respectfully by professionals and volunteers who have the training, compassion and heart to take great care of the participants in the respite care program.
In conclusion, the Alzheimer’s Project wants to recognize Juneteenth and celebrate that first step that was taken in 1865. We also want to recognize there are still many steps to be taken. We often equate a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s as the beginning of a journey. While the nature of the disease forces steps that scientists and caregivers try to slow or stop, our steps towards eliminating inequalities, inequities and racism need to speed up. We will see you on our journey to fulfill the work we have committed to doing. If you would like to learn more about our organization or get involved, please contact us at 850-386-2778.