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Rush University Study To Explore Alzheimer's Disease In Latinos

CHICAGO (CBS) -- About 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease and, according to Rush University, the number of Latinos with Alzheimer's is growing by the year.

CBS 2's Marissa Bailey looked at why Latinos are now the focus of a new Alzheimer's study, and why organizers are looking for new participants.

28-year-old Manual Beltran is the sole caregiver to his 77-year-old father from Colombia, who has senile dementia. This progressive disease destroys memory and other important mental functions.

"It's getting harder and harder to deal. Things like cooking have become dangerous."

Beltran, a DePaul law student, has made the difficult choice to put his father in a nursing home at some point this year, saying it has become too much for him to handle alone anymore.

"If he doesn't like the food, he'll like throw the tray off the table," Beltran said.

Studies show Latinos may have a higher risk of developing dementia compared to other ethnicities, but are less likely to get medical help for it.

Rush University is conducting a long-term study focusing on older Latinos with Alzheimer's to better understand why they are susceptible to the disease. Their hope is that the study will eventually lead to early detection.

Dr. David Marquez, one of the co-founders of the study, said he thinks it will be helpful for the future, and added that there is a lot of money invested in the project.

"We are trying to follow people over time and do annual testing with them to see when they do pass away, what are the factors that influence if somebody did develop Alzheimer's disease."

Beltran acknowledges that the study may have helped his dad.

"The disease doesn't slow down, it doesn't stop. So everyday, I know that a little bit is kind of wearing down."

Rush University is still looking for about 150 people to participate in the study. In order to qualify, you must be at least 65-years-old and identify as a Latino or Hispanic. Those who have already been diagnosed with dementia are not eligible.

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