PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Wardenia Lassiter is passionate about educating Black Americans about Alzheimer’s disease.

“They have to be a part of the research so we can find a cure for this horrible horrible disease,” she told WAVY.

Black people are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s but they are being diagnosed later and are way underrepresented in clinical trials, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Lassiter took care of her mother, Lorena, for three years after her diagnosis, but is convinced Lorena struggled long before.

“When I went to her house, I found yellow stickies [notes] with information on it in her bedroom,” she said.

Lassiter thinks her mother was reluctant to see a doctor.

“Somehow I feel she believes without a diagnosis, then maybe it’s not real and not true,” she said.

That reluctance and distrust of doctors are believed to keep many Black people from participating in research studies too, which experts say is a huge roadblock to finding better treatments and a cure.

“It is difficult to understand how ethnic and racial differences may affect the safety and efficacy of potential new treatments,” said Geriatrics Specialist Dr. Hamid Okhravi with Eastern Virginia Medical School.

This Friday, Dr. Hamid Okhravi is participating in a virtual conference sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, Hampton University and Norfolk State University. They are calling Black Americans into action for their brain health.

Experts from across the country will talk about everything from research to quality long-term care and the financial impacts of Alzheimer’s.

“Hopefully there will be a very frank and insightful discussion about why and how people can participate in different studies clinical trials and other types of research studies,” Okhravi told us.

If Lorena had an earlier diagnosis, Wardenia believes she could have enjoyed a healthier life, longer.

“When you get that information you can do something with it to help you and I do believe that very much so,” Lassiter said.

The conference takes place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can register here.