Dementia Care

If we spent as much time trying to understand behaviour as we spend trying to manage or control it, we might discover that what lies behind it is a genuine attempt to communicate.*

The first step in the provision of culturally appropriate dementia care is to address issues around language and communication.

Effective communication is critical for all people with dementia as they gradually lose the ability to organise and express their thoughts. Communication issues can be even more significant for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, who may not be able to communicate to staff or other care recipients in their preferred language.

Difficulties in communication are commonly misinterpreted as 'problem' behaviour by staff, when the needs of care recipients are not being met due to language issues. A recent Monash University study has revealed that people with dementia at an aged care facility who were not able to communicate in their preferred language had a significantly higher rate of prescription of daytime tranquilisers compared to those from non-English speaking backgrounds who were able to communicate in their preferred language.

Addressing cultural diversity across all care services and therapies, and in the living environment of your facility, will help you to provide a safe, comforting, familiar and orientating environment for your care recipients with dementia.

*Goldsmith, M 'Slow down and listen to their voices,' Journal of Dementia Care, 4 (4) 24–25 (1996)

Key Considerations

  • Ensure dementia assessments are culturally appropriate, have been reviewed for cultural bias and recognise the impact of culture and the migration experience in understanding individual behaviour.
  • Use professional interpreting services familiar with the aged care setting for dementia assessments, and when care plans are developed and reviewed.
  • Identify and support the cultural, linguistic and spiritual needs of people with dementia in all care plans and reviews.
  • Consider the different cultural representations and perceptions of dementia when discussing the subject with care recipients and their families.
  • Provide people with dementia and their families with dementia information in their preferred language.
  • Ensure that people with dementia and their families are aware of the dementia support services available through Alzheimer's Australia.
  • Ensure that cultural diversity is addressed across all care services, including health and personal care and food services.
  • Ensure that people with dementia have access to culturally appropriate emotional support and spiritual support.
  • Implement a culturally appropriate activities program with therapies that are designed to promote and enhance the quality of life for people with dementia – eg culturally appropriate music therapy and reminiscence therapy.
  • Ensure the living environment is culturally appropriate and supports people with dementia by providing a safe, comfortable, familiar and orientating environment.
  • Ensure that staff have received dementia training, as well as training in cultural awareness and appropriate communication.

Additional Resources and Links

  • Dementia care and culture: for environmental services staff

    Bilogrevic, L. & Harrison, B. (2015) Workbook. Dementia care and culture: for environmental services staff, Geelong, Multicultural Aged Care Services Geelong Inc.

  • Dementia Information in other Languages

    Alzheimer's Australia
    Languages include: Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Latvian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Tagalog, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese.

  • Perceptions of Dementia in Ethnic Communities
    Alzheimer's Australia (Vic)
    Perceptions of Dementia in Ethnic Communities attempts to uncover the perceptions of dementia among 12 ethnic communities to inform the development of a practical resource to assist planners and service providers to better understand and respond to the varying support needs of older CALD Australians.

    This document covers the following communities: Arabic, Croatian, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Macedonian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Turkish, Vietnamese. Lao now available.
      • National Dementia Helpline: 1800 100 500
        Alzheimer's Australia


      Use the National Resources Search for additional resources and links including resources developed under the Community Partners Program (CPP) and the Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care (PICAC) Initiative.

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