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Cedar Rapids woman works to educate African Americans about Alzheimer’s after mother’s death



CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa  -Sherita Jenkins holds her mom close everyday with a bracelet on her wrist that has her mother’s picture on it. Bettye Jones died of Alzheimer’s in 2017.

“I know that my mom probably suffered with this for quite some time, for years probably and we just didn’t know,” Jenkins told us.

Now she dedicates her life work to educating others like herself about the disease through the Alzheimer’s Association.

“I could have a voice in the African American community where we don’t know the signs of Alzheimer’s. We don’t know what dementia is, it’s not something that we talk about amongst our culture and we are two times as likely to get the disease,” Jenkins says.

Dr. Georgina Aldridge, a neurologist with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics explains.

“On the surface there some comorbidities such as high blood pressure that can be more common in that population,” Dr. Aldridge says.

“There’s also disparities in healthcare or bias, or there could even be mistrust of the healthcare system that might lead to decreased treatment of the diseases that contribute to dementia,” she added.

Some examples would be decreased treatment of diabetes or sleep apnea which can increase a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s.

Jenkins says looking back, there were signs her mom was struggling.

“She was falling all the time but she said she was fine, couldn’t remember a lot of things, would get very agitated very quickly, didn’t understand where her money was going,” she told us.

Dr. Aldridge says there is no cure for Alzheimer’s but researchers believe proteins in the brain are linked to the disease and treatments are improving.

“There are many different treatments that are targeting those proteins and some of them are currently being evaluated by the FDA right now,” Dr. Aldridge says.

Jenkins wants others to know there are resources out there to help, it’s something she wishes she would have had.

“I hope all that I do to bring awareness and to help others would make her proud,” Jenkins says.