Research: Breaking through cultural barriers for better dementia care

Professor Lily Xiao

In an effort to enhance the quality of life and support for informal carers of people living with dementia, Flinders University is embarking on a groundbreaking research project in Australia. The initiative, backed by a $1.5 million grant from the Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, aims to address the challenges faced by informal carers from culturally diverse backgrounds who often experience high levels of stress and social isolation.

Led by Professor Lily Xiao, an internationally recognised dementia caregiving researcher from the Flinders College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the project will trial a culturally tailored “iSupport model” that takes into account carers’ specific cultural needs, preferred language, and access to the Australian health system.

In a statement, Professor Xiao explains that many informal carers lack accessible resources and information in their preferred language to adequately care for their family members with dementia. Structural discrimination often prevents these carers from accessing necessary care services, dementia education, and social support.

“Current challenges for dementia caregivers from culturally and linguistically diverse groups include unmet care needs, uncontrolled chronic conditions, complications, low quality of life, avoidable hospital admissions and high costs to the health and social care systems,” added Professor Xiao.

The iSupport program, developed and endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), will be implemented in routine dementia care services, offering support in English as well as seven non-English languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Bahasa, Greek, Italian, and Spanish. More language versions will be added in the future.

By incorporating the iSupport model, the research team intends to bring about a paradigm shift in the current system, improving the health and quality of life for both caregivers and their families.

The project involves collaboration with researchers from Flinders University and Western Sydney University, as well as partnerships with organisations such as the Australian Nursing Home Foundation, Bolton Clarke, Chinese Australian Services Society, Community Access and Services, Greek Orthodox Community, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, and the Society of Saint Hilarion.

This ambitious research project offers hope for breaking down cultural barriers and providing much-needed support to informal carers within culturally diverse communities, ultimately contributing to improved dementia care in Australia.

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