This professor began studying Alzheimer’s caregivers. Then her mother showed symptoms.

Dr. Oanh Le Meyer had recently started studying health disparities in Vietnamese Americans with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers when she first noticed symptoms in her own mother about five years ago.

First Meyer’s mom started asking the same questions over and over. Then the complex meals she would cook became simpler. By the time Meyer published her first study on support programs for those caring for Vietnamese Americans with dementia in 2015, she was one of her mom’s primary caregivers.

Oanh Meyer and her mom, Anh Le, in 2018.Courtesy of Dr. Oanh Le Meyer

“There’s a grieving process to it that continues,” Meyer said. “But I think, being a scientist, I approached it more this is just an illness taking over her brain.”

Today, Meyer spends her time working to help those caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s, who she noted may not have the same scientific background that she does. An assistant professor at the University of California, Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center, she is currently studying the experiences of caregivers and how programs may help improve their lives, which she said is understudied for Asian Americans.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in 10 Americans age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s disease. A 2018 report from the nonprofit detailing research findings stated that more studies into Asian Americans were needed to draw conclusions about that population.