Treating dementia with cultural sensitivity

7 Apr 2015

A trip to the stunning shores of the Torres Strait Islands has reinforced the need to make a difference to dementia sufferers in even the remotest of locations.

University of Queensland School of Psychology researcher Professor Nancy Pachana visited the group of 14 inhabited islands in March, along with representatives from James Cook University and Alzheimer’s Australia (Qld) as part of a research project.

Professor Pachana said that age-related illness was a major concern for the Torres Strait community, with the population particularly vulnerable to age-related health conditions.

“The Torres Strait region has an increasingly ageing population and there is very real interest in how to cope with concerning behaviours in people with dementia,” she said.

“In general there is a demand for direction on how to improve and maintain health in later life.

“People on the islands are hungry for information but, without comprehensive data, health professionals are limited in the advice they can give and policy decisions are limited in their efficacy.

“One of the more defining moments of the tour was a visit to a nursing home on Thursday Island, where traditional cooking and crafts were used to give residents an enhanced sense of meaning,” she said.

Also memorable for Professor Pachana was the opportunity to speak on local Radio 4MW about healthy ageing and recognising the signs of dementia onset.

She consulted with local health care workers about the appropriateness of the Geriatric Anxiety Inventory for the Torres population.

The screening tool was developed by Professor Pachana and Professor Gerard Byrne of the UQ School of Medicine and is used globally.

“I was pleased to know, after speaking with several Torres Strait health professionals, that our Geriatric Anxiety Inventory was considered relatively straightforward to deliver in this cultural context,” Professor Pachana said.

“I look forward to continuing my collaborations in the region and offer a big thank you to all who afforded me such an interesting experience.”

Professor Pachana’s participation formed part of her work with UQ’s Ageing Mind Initiative, a focal point for age-related health research at UQ.

Media: Professor Nancy Pachana, +617 3365 6832,; UQ Communications Robert Burgin, +617 3346 3035, +61 448 410 364,