Church holds discussion on dementia

Photos by Timothy Ramsey-Many elderly individuals of Ephesus came out to hear the discussion on dementia.

Church holds discussion on  dementia
July 13
04:00 2017

Dementia and other mental disabilities are many times swept under the rug in the African-American community as they are often seen as a sign of weakness.  To shed light on the topic, Ephesus Seventh-Day Adventist Church held an “Understanding Dementia” class on Sunday, July 9.

The church brought in experts on the subject to give further information about the disease and some of the warning signs to look out for.  The presenters were Deb Burkum of the Sticht Center at Wake Forest Baptist and Karen Owens of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The idea to bring Burkum and Owens to Ephesus was that of Annie Heath, disability ministry leader of Ephesus.  She says she wanted to bring them in to speak because dementia has hit her family very hard in recent years.

“To tell you the truth, I was dealing with so much of it [dementia] in my family I thought it was important to share,” Heath said.  “Along with my family dealing with it I researched and saw the disease was affecting younger people and not just the elderly and God just put the thought in my head to do a dementia talk.  I want people to know what the symptoms look like so they can catch it early.”

During Burkum’s presentation she explained how Alzheimer’s falls under the umbrella of dementia along with other mental illnesses.  She described many of the symptoms and things to help prevent having the disease to begin with such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercise and being proactive about the issue.

“At the Sticht Center we really focus on body and brain health,” Burkum said.  “What I wanted everyone to know was that African-Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than Caucasians, also women are more likely than men to develop it, and that makes me mad.”

“It really compels me to go into the African-American community because I need their involvement together to find the answers because those numbers are not OK,” she went on to say.  “What Karen and I were talking about were proactive things that we want to teach people that they can do to empower themselves to reduce their risk for developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.”

Burkum informed everyone that they have an Alzheimer’s research center at Wake Forest Baptist, one of 31 in the entire country.  She wanted to inform everyone that since they are grant-funded, they are free of charge for anyone that would like to complete one of their studies.

“We offer stipends to cover expenses because we want people to not have a worry when they participate, she said.  “Our whole reason for being is that we are a resource for the community and we want to help our seniors age well.”

Burkum says that some of the reasons for the high number of African-American’s developing Dementia is because of diabetes and hypertention, which are two diseases that are prevelant in the African-American community.

Owens spoke to the congregation about the caregiver’s role when dealing with loved ones with any form of dementia.  She gave tips about how to better associate with someone with dementia.  She also touched on caregivers making sure they are of sound mind, body and spirit while they are in care of someone else.

“The bottom line is, if caregivers are not taking care of themselves to the best of their ability, that affects their ability to care for their loved ones,” she said.  “I can’t stress enough the importance of self care for caregivers, not only physically but spiritually and mentally.”

Owens gave an account of all the services that the Alzheimer’s Association provides, such as educational programs, 24-hour helpline for information and resources, service that matches people with clinical trials and care consultations and support groups.  All of the services are free of charge.

Owens and Burkum say both of their associations have partnered with the local ministers’ conference and other churches in an effort to get the word out.  They also say they are willing to come to any church to present their information.

Visit for more information about the Alzheimer’s Association, and for the Sticht Center, visit

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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