Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 85–95

“The Heart Still Beat, But The Brain Doesn't Answer”

  • Mary C. Olson

DOI: 10.1023/A:1009984110011

Cite this article as:
Olson, M.C. Theor Med Bioeth (1999) 20: 85. doi:10.1023/A:1009984110011


The purpose of this exploratory and descriptive study was to examine old-age dementia in the Hmong community of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Formal and informal Hmong leaders were interviewed to determine the prevalence of dementia in the Hmong community and how it is perceived and experienced. Interviews revealed few cases of dementia among the Hmong. Dementia was perceived as a natural part of the life cycle, rather than as a devastating disease that robs individuals of their autonomy. Treatment is not sought for dementia. Some of the common manifestations of dementia, such as wandering and combativeness, were rare or non-existent in the Hmong community. Individuals with dementia are cared for in their sons' homes. Nursing home placement in advanced dementia was only acceptable if sanctioned by the entire extended family. Further research on the Hmong perception of and experience with dementia needs to be conducted in other Hmong communities to validate the generalizability of these results.

Hmongtem toobdementiacross-cultural ethicsmedical ethicsAlzheimer's disease

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary C. Olson
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for the Study of BioethicsMedical College of WisconsinMilwaukeeUSA