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One of New York’s Healthiest Counties Grapples with High Incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease

A teeming suburb just north of New York City, Westchester County is known for its picturesque landscapes, thriving cultural scene, and, according to US News & World Report, for being the fourth healthiest county in the state. Recently, Westchester has earned a distinction that’s not so positive: it is a New York State County with a disproportionately high rate of Alzheimer’s disease.

At the July 2023 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Amsterdam, researchers released the first-ever county-level prevalence estimates for Alzheimer’s dementia in people 65 years of age and older, the Journal News reports. The data show that New York has the second-highest Alzheimer’s prevalence among all 50 states, behind only Maryland. Within New York state, Westchester County has one of the highest rates of residents living with Alzheimer’s, rounding out the top five counties behind four of the five boroughs of New York City. The Bronx ranks as one of the three counties with the highest proportion of residents with Alzheimer’s nationwide, along with Miami-Dade and Baltimore City.

This unsettling trend not only poses significant challenges for individuals and families grappling with the effects of the disease but also underscores the urgent need for comprehensive research, support, and awareness to combat the condition within the county’s borders.”

Rita Mabli, president & CEO, United Hebrew

Why Westchester?

Despite the predominantly healthy lifestyles of Westchesterites, aging itself is the biggest factor in developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. But according to the Journal News report, there may be other contributing factors at play:

Researchers behind the study have hypothesized that a specific combination of demographic characteristics may explain the higher prevalence in counties like Westchester, including older average age and higher percentages of Black and Hispanic residents. Age is well-established as a primary risk factor for Alzheimer’s and according to the Alzheimer’s Association 2023 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts & Figures, older Black Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older white Americans, and older Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as their white peers.

What We’re Doing at United Hebrew

“Currently, we have no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia,” says Mabli.  “But that does not preclude our residents from living a full life. At United Hebrew, we design programs for our memory care community residents that are enriching, fulfilling, and foster social interaction. We live together here like family and our residents have a sense of purpose. Just because you have an Alzheimer’s diagnosis doesn’t mean you’ve stopped living.”

Elderly Asian woman smiling at the camera.

United Hebrew’s caregivers employ evidence-based therapies and activities to help residents retain precious memories. “People often forget that for every individual with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, in most cases, there is a family member struggling with the cognitive and behavioral changes associated with their loved one’s condition,” says Mabli. “Caregivers need self-care and help in understanding the disease, including therapies that can help stave off cognitive decline in their loved one.”

Mabli says a structured routine and environment helps to minimize confusion and provides a sense of security for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. “It’s important to maintain quality of life through social interaction, as well as helping to slow down cognitive decline through stimulating activity, such as games, puzzles, listening to music, and reading.”

Read more: How Reminiscing Helps Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

To learn more about United Hebrew’s Senior Living Campus or to book a tour, visit us here or call 914-632-2804.

Photo by Jixiao Huang on Unsplash