Organization aims to support Native American dementia caregivers on the Navajo Nation

Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2023 - 3:40pm
Updated: Wednesday, January 18, 2023 - 1:54pm

Roughly 1 in 3 Native American elders will develop Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. They will likely rely on family caregivers, who will also need ongoing support. Now, new partnership that aims to reach family caregivers on the Navajo Nation.

The So’Tsoh Foundation and Duet Partners in Aging are teaming up to bring a 10-week discussion series to caregivers living on the Navajo Nation.

Valerie Tsosie founded the So’Tsoh Foundation during the pandemic.

"We were able to get over 60,000 pieces of PPE out to all 80 senior centers on Navajo to help the community out," Tsosie said. 

That’s how it started. Today, the So’Tsoh Foundation continues to support family caregivers through training, "such as Alzheimer's and dementia, understanding Alzheimer's, what is the difference, you know, and then we go in depth with behavioral issues, communication issues," Tsosie said. 

She also helps caregivers with language because some words, like dementia, do not translate into Dine. 

"There is a term, is it an exact thing to identify? Not really, it's more describing it," she said.

Justin McBride is with Duet.

"We know that family caregivers, especially those who are caring for an individual with dementia, or other cognitive impairments, face immense stress physically, emotionally and mentally. And that is even more so true for those who are in rural and underrepresented communities," McBride said. 

The program, called Finding Meaning and Hope, will eventually be translated into Dine, said McBride. Tsosie's hope is that by educating family caregivers and elders about dementia, they can start to talk about it and, more importantly, plan.

Fronteras Science Aging Native American Affairs