The Impact of Caregiving on the Brain Health of Black Men

Did you know that Black men represent only 1-2% of participants in clinical Alzheimer’s research? Hear from a researcher committed to identifying the risk factors related to the brain health of Black male family caregivers and other minoritized populations and developing unique interventions and support.

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By Alzheimer's Prevention Bulletin

Understanding the Unique Impact of Caregiving on Black Men and Other Minoritized Populations
Did you know? 

  • Only 5% of participants in Alzheimer’s research are Black.
  • Of that 5%, 75% are Black women.
  • As a result, Black men are only 1-2% of participants.

Founder of the Black Men’s Brain Health initiative, author and former collegiate and professional football player, Robert Turner, II, Ph.D., spoke with us recently providing insights into efforts to include Black men and other minoritized populations in brain health research. He founded and leads the R.W. Turner Lab at George Washington University in Washington D.C. which is primarily focused on “neurological and psychological health and aims to provide caregivers, community organizations, and medical professionals the best and most up-to-date information to treat their clients.” The lab’s research is funded and supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the Alzheimer’s Association. 

Understanding the Health Impacts on Caregivers in Minoritized Populations

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 10% of family caregivers for adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) in the United States are Black. As Black individuals are twice as likely to develop ADRD compared to non-Hispanic White individuals, understanding the unique health impacts on Black family caregivers is critical to supporting their long term health and quality of life.

Dr. Turner’s research is currently focused on understanding the brain health impact on Black male caregivers of ADRD patients. While interest in this issue has increased in recent years, little literature exists on adult Black males as primary caregivers of a person with ADRD- a growing subpopulation particularly vulnerable to various forms of stress. 

Based in Washington D.C. and funded by the NIA, the objective of the Black Male Caregiver Burden Study is to evaluate the effect of dementia caregiving stress on cognitive (i.e., mental) function in adults. As Black men have the worst health profile among the American male population, this study is critical to understanding the unique risk profiles of Black male caregivers and determining the most appropriate interventions to decrease the impact on their physical and brain health. 

Dr. Turner advised that recruiting Black men for this and other studies presents distinct challenges. Often, minoritized populations have a distrust of the health system based on their experience or that of their family or ancestors. That’s one of the reasons he has a passion for this study and others incorporating and understanding minoritized populations. As a Black male, Dr. Turner has had similar experiences and understands that Black men are often conflicted in their desire to help but mistrusting the system. In recruiting and working with study participants, he builds relationships, hears their concerns and addresses their fears. 

Dr. Turner shared that his team’s research objective relative to study participants is to “give more than we take.” The study is planned to be replicated with other minoritized populations beginning with Hispanics.

Increasing Research Focused on Subgroups of Caregivers 

More research is critical to understanding the impact on the brain health of subgroups of family caregivers of ADRD patients, so that optimal interventions can be identified and made available to support the health of these caregivers. 

With the goal of attracting and nurturing such researchers, the Alzheimer’s Association funds initiatives like the Black Men’s Brain Health (BMBH) Emerging Scholars Program, which supports a group of early and mid-career investigators examining brain aging among Black men. 

Through programs like BMBH, scholars network with brain health experts from across the globe as well as meet with representatives of community organizations. The goal is to:

  • Educate and train scholars to do brain health research targeting minoritized populations
  • Build cultural awareness to support appropriate methods of research based on the target population

Also funded by the Alzheimer’s Association as well as NIA, the annual Black Men’s Brain Health Conference brings together scientists, practitioners, and community partners to raise awareness about Black men’s brain health, aging, Alzheimer's disease, and related dementias. Creating “a bridge with professionals to increase the inclusion of Black men in brain and aging science research and improve brain health among Black men,” the conference coincides with Super Bowl week each year.

To browse research studies looking for participants near you, please visit our Find a Study page.