GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Hispanic Americans are 1.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia than White Americans. Doctors believe there are a variety of factors that not only lead to a higher prevalence of these types of diseases but more often a delayed diagnosis.

“I think there’s a lot of things personal, individual, societal, institutional that play a role into why there’s maybe a higher prevalence of dementia in Latino older adults here in the US,” Dr. Carlos Rodriguez, a clinical psychologist with Corewell Health, said. “There’s (a) stigma associated with (memory loss) as well but there’s also institutional factors too. Do patients have insurance? Do they have access to a provider that they feel comfortable talking to about these conditions?”

When Rodriguez came to Grand Rapids, he noticed a major need for Spanish neuropsychology services.

“A lot of our tests that have been designed in neuropsychology were developed, standardized, normed in English-speaking populations, mostly here in the U.S., mostly white Americans,” he explained. 

Because there is already a stigma associated with memory loss, Rodriguez said it’s vital to ensure non-English speakers are kept in mind when testing abilities like memory, language and thinking. That’s why he made it a mission to provide this type of service. 

Every Monday and Wednesday, Rodriguez hosts a clinic specifically for Spanish speakers. Each session begins with an interview so he can get to know the patient and what concerns they or their family members have, after which he performs an evaluation.

“Most of the testing is paper and pencil-based test. A couple of things on the computer that I’ll walk them through and it’s things like showing people a picture of something and they might have to remember it later on or I tell them some verbal information that they’ll have to remember later on or I give them a puzzle to work with and I time how quickly they can complete that puzzle,” Rodriguez explained.

Depending on the diagnosis, Rodriguez then recommends a treatment plan. 

“It might be talking about medications, it might be talking about modifying the environment, it might be talking about referring to other sub-specialties,” he said.

There is also an option to connect the patient with other Corewell providers, including physicians, neurologists, geriatricians, and social workers.

“As a team, we can kind of help get them the care or the resources that they need,” he said.

Rodriguez isn’t aware of anyone else in West Michigan who offers this type of service and said the clinic gets a great response from patients and their loved ones. 

“I think they’re generally happy to see that there’s a provider that speaks their language and they feel maybe a little bit more comfortable with that.”

His hope is to not only continue working in this role but to train more people in his field so there are more providers available to serve the Hispanic community. 

“I definitely want to keep this going. As long as there’s a need  I want to be there,” he said.