South Asians Need to Talk About Dementia — Before It’s Too Late

New Alzheimer’s drugs could delay cognitive decline, but South Asians might miss out on this life-altering care.

GettyImages-173236740 Dementia South Asians

Allana Akhtar


July 25, 2023


8 min

Guru Sundar’s father embodied the immigrant dream. He fled Sri Lanka around 1983 during the country’s Civil War, working in Saudi Arabia before immigrating to Canada as a refugee. Passionate about financial markets, he worked his way to a national manager role for the Ontario-based healthcare firm Medigas. His work ethic passed down to Sundar, who now helps lead a multi-million-dollar holographic display firm.

After decades of working hard, his father retired in 2014. But he didn’t have hobbies to fall back on and felt isolated while his wife was at work. In late 2017, Sundar began to notice his father forgetting simple details. When his father, now 74, could no longer remember his family, Sundar got him tested for severe dementia. Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative brain disorder that leads to memory loss, difficulty moving or speaking, and behavioral changes, is the most common cause of dementia, impacting more than 55 million people globally. 

As baby boomers get older, many South Asians will contend with dementia and Alzheimer’s for the first time, with experts predicting cases tripling among Asian Americans by 2030. Several Alzheimer’s drug wins this year ushered in an era of hope for patients grappling with the disease, which has no cure. Though current data shows that Asian Americans are less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, cases can be underreported, which means that many in the community may miss out on lifesaving care — including new treatments.

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