Alzheimer’s Australia says that policies must be implemented now to reduce the risk of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians developing dementia, following research findings that they experience dementia at a rate three times higher than the general Australian population.
The Alzheimer’s Australia report released today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and Dementia: A review of the research, outlines the prevalence of dementia and modifiable risk factors in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It discusses a range of policy and service implications of the growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with dementia and is based on research conducted in Western Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory and New South Wales.
“Action is needed to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with dementia and their family members are receiving culturally-appropriate services and supports now and into the future,” Graeme Samuel AC, National President of Alzheimer’s Australia said.
“Incorporating dementia into pre-existing health strategies as well as widely disseminating Alzheimer’s Australia’s Your Story Matters resources will help raise awareness of the modifiable risk factors of dementia and assist in the timely diagnosis of the condition.
“Training packages targeting dementia awareness, including the use of culturally-appropriate cognitive screening tools, should be promoted to mainstream health professionals and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers to support access to timely diagnosis.”
Fred Tanner, Chair of Alzheimer’s Australia’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee said that these simple solutions could help to reduce a looming epidemic affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
“The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 55 years and over is projected to increase over the next twenty years which means if we don’t act now, we will see an increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with dementia,” Mr Tanner said.