The Northwest Portland Indian Health Board’s (NPAIHB) Chandra Wilson is the program manager of the BOLD (Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act) core capacity grant. Chandra explains that to succeed in this role, “It begins with a lot of listening. As a Klamath Modoc Yahooskin woman trained as a social worker, I come by this part of the work quite naturally.”
Northwest Portland Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) is a non-profit tribal advisory organization comprised of tribal delegates from forty-three federally recognized tribes across Oregon, Idaho, and Washington state, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. NPAIHB provides technical assistance and training to its tribes, supports policy, surveillance, research, and health promotion and disease prevention efforts, and is “a natural home for a program focusing attention on elder care, dementia, and related caregiving,” according to Wilson. The Board also has deep experience in convening tribal advisors and committee of elders to guide our work, essential in engaging this issue in our tribal communities.”
COVID-19-related work created barriers and delays for many organizations. NPAIHB has remained focused on educating workers and tribal staff about the difference between normal aging and dementia while using tools like the discussion guide in the Road Map for Indian Country. Chandra is piloting community assessments in the Board’s member tribes in the three states and learning more about the situation on the ground. Washington State also has a robust state Alzheimer’s plan.
Consistent with the action items in the Road Map for Indian Country, NPAIHB is developing information and tools to help older adults understand and anticipate dementia challenges. First, by gathering what is currently being used by tribal programs like aging services (Title VI) and health authorities and looking at collections of materials such as those found on the IA² website. “We continue reaching out to potential partners like the Native American Rehabilitation Association, the Portland Area Urban Indian Clinic, Veterans health organizations, and other clinics who may provide services to tribal elders and older adults.”
Chandra offered, “As you can imagine, there are many differences in traditions, language, even favorite foods across all the tribes we work with. I see our key work as not speaking for seniors and families but taking the time to listen, to create a space for their voices in our work, to honor the fact that all have passions and purpose and that we walk in the footsteps of our ancestors. This is a classic public health approach.”