Thanks to a $50,000 Dementia Australia Research Foundation – Victoria Project Grant, researchers from the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) are trialing a method to improve access to interpreters for people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds across Australia.
Using videoconferencing methods like Skype, Dr Xiaoping Lin hopes the presence of an interpreter will improve dementia diagnosis for people from CALD backgrounds, regardless of their geographical location.
The prevalence of dementia among people from CALD backgrounds is expected to triple in the next 30 years – a challenge which presents an urgent need for tailored dementia care for Australia’s significant CALD communities.
The limited CALD-specific research to date shows that people with dementia tend to present to health professionals for diagnosis much later than the rest of the population. This late intervention results in the person with dementia being less likely to participate in the planning process for managing their condition, and therefore is less likely to have their wishes considered.
The effects of cognitive decline also means that even people from CALD backgrounds who are fluent in English often experience a decline in their language proficiency as their condition progresses.
Dr Lin hopes greater access to interpreters will address this delay in diagnosis and improve health outcomes for people with dementia and their families from CALD backgrounds.
“Previous studies undertaken by NARI found poor access to interpreting services meant that assessment needed to be rescheduled until an appropriate interpreter could be found, and lead to a delay of diagnosis,” Dr Lin said.
“In many cases, it’s very difficult to find a face-to-face interpreter. Face-to-face interpreting should always be offered as a first option. In cases where this is not possible, we hope that health services would consider the use of e-interpreting via video conferencing to avoid delays in diagnosis,” Dr Lin said.
Dr Lin’s research project ultimately selected video-conferencing over teleconferencing, as cognitive assessments are often complex and include non-verbal tasks.
The project has shown that e-interpreting is a reliable tool in cognitive assessments, yielding similar results to face-to-face interpreting services. The study also found that conducting assessments with e-interpreting through video conferencing platforms was acceptable to clinicians, interpreters, people with dementia and carers.
The NARI research team, led by Dr Lin, hopes that the results will spark a conversation about implementing a nationwide service.
“A centralised e-interpreting service available in the future would provide much better access for all Australians,” Dr Lin said.
The e-interpreting project is also aiding the development of a future project on the combined use of video conferencing with interpreters and clinicians in separate locations, allowing for consultation with patients from three different sites.
Having been involved in aged care in facilities with a high number of residents from CALD backgrounds, living with dementia, E-interpreting appears to be a valuable resource in the the diagnosis and management process of dementia. All too often, I've experienced professoinals', families' and residents ' frustration where language and cultural barriers have impacted the person's care and appropriate management.