Black Angelenos care for Alzheimer’s patients—and each other

Black Angelenos care for Alzheimer’s patients—and each other

Support groups help manage the strain on caregivers in the epicenter of Alzheimer’s cases.

By George B. Sánchez-Tello for Capital & Main

Peggy Melancon, known as Mother Peggy, got on the wrong bus in South Los Angeles. She didn’t recognize her hairdresser. She kept losing her keys. These were the signs of her illness that daughters Jeanie Harris and Sharon Melancon recognized only after Mother Peggy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a degenerative brain disease. Mother Peggy would need someone with her all the time. Harris, Melancon, and other family members would alternate being that someone. This wasn’t the first time for Harris and Melancon: Their cousin, Lorraine M. Jackson, whom they called Aunt Lorraine, had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Harris, Melancon, Mother Peggy, and Aunt Lorraine are emblematic of the impact of Alzheimer’s in America. Los Angeles County, with more residents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease than any other county in the nation, is the U.S. epicenter of a malady that is harming Black Americans at higher rates than any other group. As more Black women and men are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, more family members like Harris and Melancon are becoming caregivers, straining their own health and finances.

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