Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Dementia in Australia, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 26 May 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Dementia in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dementia/dementia-in-aus
Dementia in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 20 September 2021, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dementia/dementia-in-aus
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Dementia in Australia [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021 [cited 2022 May. 26]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dementia/dementia-in-aus
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Dementia in Australia, viewed 26 May 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dementia/dementia-in-aus
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Dementia has a deep impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (respectfully referred to as Indigenous Australians) and communities. The following pages present the impact of dementia among Indigenous Australians in relation to:
The pages also discuss what is being done to address the impact of dementia and the availability of services to meet the needs of Indigenous Australians.
It is essential to understand how dementia is understood and managed among Indigenous Australians in order to devise culturally appropriate and effective policies and services. However, there are important data gaps in relation to dementia in Indigenous Australians, which limit the robustness of analyses and the generalisability of findings for Indigenous Australians. These gaps include the lack of Indigenous Australian representation in key survey data, and that data on available services and uptake are not necessarily available outside the organisation providing them (AIHW 2020). As such, results presented here should be interpreted carefully.
The term ‘Indigenous Australians’ refer to hundreds of different groups of people with distinct cultures, traditions and languages.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates that in 2016, there were over 798,400 Indigenous Australians, making up 3.3% of the total Australian population. According to the ABS (2018), among Indigenous Australians in 2016:
Experiences of dementia and awareness of risk factors for developing dementia vary greatly among Indigenous Australians, as with non-Indigenous Australians (Flicker & Holdsworth 2014). However, as long as dementia doesn’t affect connection to family, community, and culture, many Indigenous Australians perceive the condition as a natural part of life and not necessarily a medical problem that needs to be fixed (Alzheimer’s Australia 2006).
The causes of Aboriginal dementia in Gugu Yimithurr culture is part of a natural process. The body, mind and spirit naturally get older including the brain... It may not need to get fixed as long as the individual is safe and the family and the community is safe there may not be any need to do anything at all.
–Mr. Eric Deeral, Chairperson, Elders Justice Group, Hopevale Community, Queensland
Policies and service enablers that support Indigenous Australians with dementia to live well include those that: incorporate Indigenous cultural perspectives of dementia; support family and communities to care for loved ones with dementia on Country; and are controlled by the community and delivered in a culturally safe manner (see Table 12.1 for more details).
Source: Information is summarised from: Alzheimer’s Australia 2006; Arkles et al. 2010; Lindeman et al. 2017; LoGiudice et al. 2020; Smith et al. 2007; Smith 2008; Smith et al. 2020; Warburton and Chambers 2007; and Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing 2010.
If you require more information about dementia in Indigenous Australians, or if you are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person and want to know where to seek help if dementia is suspected or want to find out about available support services refer to:
Resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
Useful websites with a focus on Indigenous health
Resources for Aboriginal workers
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). 2018. Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2016. ABS cat. no. 3238.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
Australian Government 2019. Australian Government Diversity Action Plan. Viewed 24 August 2021.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020. Dementia data gaps and opportunities. Cat. no. AGE 105. Canberra: AIHW. doi:10.25816/xmer-mr26
Alzheimer’s Australia 2006. Beginning the conversation: addressing dementia in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Workshop report, 8–9 November 2006 (Adelaide).
Arkles R, Jackson Pulver L, Robertson H, Draper B, Chalkley S & Broe A 2010. Ageing, cognition and dementia in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: a life cycle approach. Sydney: Neuroscience Research Australia and Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit, University of New South Wales.
Flicker L & Holdsworth K 2014. Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people and dementia: a review of the research. Canberra: Alzheimer's Australia.
Lindeman MA, Smith K, LoGiudice D & Elliott M 2017. Community care for Indigenous older people: an update. Australasian Journal on Ageing 36(2):124–127.
LoGiudice D, Josif CM, Malay R, Hyde Z, Haswell M, Lindeman MA et al. 2020. The well-being of carers of older Aboriginal people living in the Kimberley Region of remote Western Australia: empowerment, depression, and carer burden. Journal of Applied Gerontology 2020 Jan 10:733464819898667. doi:10.1177/0733464819898667. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 31920136.
Smith K, Flicker L, Lautenschlager NT, Almeida OP, Atkinson D, Dwyer A et al. 2008. High prevalence of dementia and cognitive impairment in Indigenous Australians. Neurology 71(19):1470–1473.
Smith K, Gilchrist L, Taylor K, Clinch C, LoGiudice D, Edgill P et al. 2020. Good Spirit, Good Life: a quality of life tool and framework for older Aboriginal peoples. The Gerontologist gnz185. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnz185
Temple J, Wilson T, Taylor A, Kelaher M & Eades S 2020. Ageing of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population: numerical, structural, timing and spatial aspects. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 44(4):271–278. doi:10.1111/1753-6405.13001
Warburton J & Chambers B 2007. Older Indigenous Australians: their integral role in culture and community. Australasian Journal on Ageing 26(1):3–7.
Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing 2010. Indigenous services study: Lungurra Ngoora community care final report.
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