A Fort Worth resident seized an opportunity to teach Latinos about the issue of access to Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

“I am really passionate about inclusivity, especially for the Latino community. Having two parents that don’t really speak English and just thinking about how they feel and knowing that sometimes they might need resources, and there’s not a lot of resources in Spanish,” said Emily Rodriguez, the bilingual education coordinator at the James L. West Center.

In Tarrant County, a new bilingual-focused Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia program aims to increase awareness, risk reduction and knowledge in Latino communities. Cerebro Sano, or “Healthy Brain,” will tackle the disease head-on.

“It’s a lot like risk reduction because the Latino community is more receptive to that versus using words like Alzheimer’s and dementia. We try to say you’re sort of leveling up the brain,” Rodriguez said.

More than 350,000 Latinos live in Tarrant County. About 20% of the Tarrant County population over 18 years old speak Spanish at home.

Rodriguez began her part-time work in June 2022 at the James L. West Center, 1111 Summit Ave. She went into communities, like Las Vegas Trail, or wherever they would allow her to host a class, and she educates seniors on dementia. She went full-time in 2023 with the help of a two-year American Rescue Plan Act grant from Tarrant County.

The program is open to anyone who speaks Spanish and has an interest in learning about dementia, she said. Scientists predict that the cases of Latino Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias will quadruple by 2060, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

One of the key factors is population growth.

Nearly 2 million more Latinos lived in Texas in 2020 than in 2010. That number is expected to increase, making outreach like bilingual education and Alzheimer’s programs become more important.

Researchers predicted that Latinos will have the largest projected dementia case increase because of population growth, according to the CDC.

Jaime Cobb Tinsley, the vice president of dementia and caregiver education at the James L. West Center, hopes the program gets funded beyond the two-year grant. She’s confident the community reception and need will warrant that, she said.

The intention of the program is to be a collaborator in the community, Cobb Tinsley said. By using a reference system, they hope to reach as much of the Latino community as possible. For example, a partnering organization can reference patients to Cerebro Sano, and Cerebro Sano can reference patients to outside resources.

In some of the program’s existing classes, Rodriguez teaches guests about lifestyle factors that affect the risk of getting dementia, healthy brain aging, basics in communicating with dementia patients and basic courses on how to deal with the many issues caregivers deal with when they have family members who have dementia.

‘This program is not just a translation from English to Spanish. We made it culturally appropriate in how it’s delivered — this kind of content is delivered in a way that they can trust it,” Cobb Tinsley said.

Rodriguez emphasized the need for accessible bilingual programming.

“Anyone that speaks Spanish can be a part of the program,” Rodriguez said. “It’s hard sometimes because of the issue of trust. To a lot of people, it does sound sometimes too good to be true.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated on March 3 to clarify the age group of Spanish speakers at home.

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

Creative Commons License

Noncommercial entities may republish our articles for free by following our guidelines. For commercial licensing, please email hello@fortworthreport.org.

Cristian is a May 2021 graduate of Texas Christian University. At TCU, ArguetaSoto served as staff photographer at TCU360 and later as its visual editor, overseeing other photojournalists. A Fort Worth...