Inspired for awareness by: Zila Sanchez


Zila Sanchez

It started as a story assignment, one that required extensive research on Alzheimer’s and dementia; things neither she nor her family ever had to deal with.

Then, journalist and author Marita Golden stumbled across a statistic that gave her life a new purpose.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, African Americans develop Alzheimer’s at a higher rate than any other group of older Americans.

They are about twice as likely as whites to develop the disease or other forms of dementia.

Now, years later, with a novel revolving around the diseases published, Golden has found herself to be one of the leading voices in the campaign bringing awareness to an issue often ignored in the black community.

“The Wide Circumference of Love,” tells the story of a family dealing with Alzheimer’s and their journey in coping with the slow, painful loss of cognitive function in a man who was a successful architect. It is Golden’s fifth published novel.

Golden spent four years researching the disease, families who deal with it and patients who are directly affected.

“I had to put myself into the position where I was growing into the ability to tell the story,” Golden said. “It was a process of recognizing intrinsic humanity. They’re

just like me (referring to people living with Alzheimer’s). It took time for me to accept their vivid remaining humanity.”

Golden recalls the time she met a woman at the assisted living center who used to be a teacher.

While most of her memory was gone, Golden said the woman recited a nearly eight-minute poem she once had her students learn.

Listening to the woman recite that poem, she said, was like listening to her recite her life as a teacher.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.

It not only affects speech and memory, but it also eventually impacts a person’s control over bodily functions.

It is not entirely clear what causes the disease, but risk factors include old age, genetics and a family history of the disease. Women – who tend to live longer than men – make up almost two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Health and socioeconomic factors are believed to contribute to a person’s susceptibility to dementia.

Heart diseases and diabetes are more common among African Americans and Hispanics, according to the American Heart Association.

This might be a clue as to why dementia affects those communities more.

Higher rates of poverty and its ramifications, which include bad housing,

poor education and inadequate access to healthcare, have also been considered to be contributing factors.

While conducting her research, Golden met N.C. A&T biology professor Goldie Byrd.

Byrd is the founder of the Center for Outreach in Alzheimer’s, Aging and Community Health (COAACH), a response to the call of the much-needed innovation in the study of a disease most affecting the African American community.

With the help of a $2 million grant from Merck pharmaceutical, COAACH launched in 2014 .

COAACH brings education and awareness to the community by hosting many programs like support group sessions, community empowerment and partnering with Aggies Against Alzheimer’s, an organization on campus.

“I understand the stereotypes and fears people have and the barriers as to why we don’t have the information. Being the outreach coordinator, I’m thinking, ‘How do we engage the community?’ I know we can impact more than the Triad area,” said Rosalind Pughscott, COAACH outreach coordinator.

Know someone living with Alzheimer’s disease and want to take better care of them?

Visit to learn more or stop by their facility at 2105 Yanceyville Street Greensboro, NC 27405.