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2008 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant (IIRG)

Assessment of Burden of Dementia Among Korean Elders in Maryland

Hochang Lee, M.D.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, MD - United States

By 2030, the number of Asian Americans over the age of 65 is expected to increase nearly three-fold. The country's 1.2 million Korean Americans make up one of the fastest growing groups of Asian Americans. Yet many older Korean Americans do not have health insurance and speak limited English, which creates barriers to accessing health care services. At the same time, risk factors for dementia, such as smoking and alcohol use, are high among Korean Americans.

A burgeoning elderly population that is uninsured, isolated by language and at risk for dementia presents a substantial national healthcare burden. So it is important to develop a system to contact this population and overcome the cultural barriers in detecting and managing their dementia.

Hochang Lee, M.D., and colleagues will study ways to assess dementia among older Korean Americans in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area. They will determine how prevalent known risk factors for dementia are in this population and examine the current level of diagnosis and treatment in this group. They will then create a Korean version of the widely used Mini-Mental State Exam, a short test of cognitive skills used to diagnose dementia.

In the first stage of the study, 1,200 older Korean Americans will be tested with the new exam at local churches and deemed as either having dementia or having no cognitive impairment. Those diagnosed with dementia, as well as a random sample of the other group, will then be assed in a comprehensive face-to-face evaluation by bilingual geriatric psychiatrists. This second diagnosis will show the researchers how accurate their new Korean version of the mini-exam is at diagnosing dementia among Korean Americans.

Researchers aim to find new and better ways to reach out to those with dementia in the Korean-American population. Furthermore, the team hopes to improve ways to detect and manage dementia in this high-risk population.

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