National Ageing Research Institute Deputy Director. Social Gerontology, Dr Bianca Brijnath.
National Ageing Research Institute Deputy Director. Social Gerontology, Dr Bianca Brijnath.

Culture shifts focus on dementia research

SOCIAL gerontologist Dr Bianca Brijnath isn't giving herself too much time to adjust to her new role as she quickly turns her skills to developing technology to help the culturally diverse tackle dementia issues.

Dr Brijnath last month joined the not-for-profit National Ageing Research Institute in the role of deputy director for a new division which looks at social and cultural aspects of ageing and encompasses four interconnected programs; cultural diversity, relationships, healthy ageing and elder abuse.

The top of Dr Brijnath's agenda is developing electronic tools aimed at helping people within Australia's Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern communities become dementia aware.

Coined Moving Pictures, Dr Brijnath's project will develop short films for an app and a website which will be freely available to people who are Hindi, Mandarin or Arabic speakers to help them understand dementia whether they are older adults, dementia patients' families, or aged care industry workers.

"These groups represent the fastest growing migrant populations in this country," Dr Brijnath said.

"We need to address both in Australia and internationally issues around cultural diversity and care, specifically dementia.

"Dementia is going to be a major issue very quickly on the Australian horizon. But, also not just in Australia; it's going to have huge ramifications in places like India and China where the rates are going to go up by 90% by 2020.

"People are living longer so with dementia linked to ageing, the longer you live, the more likely you are to get it."

She highlights that more people need to know more about dementia care, not only in the caring for, but also in the caring about, to effectively support families and carers.

To achieve better care for dementia patients, Dr Brijnath is advocating three changes -

  • Increase awareness and understanding of the issues around illnesses that happen with ageing.
  • Good articulation of the care pathways available so people know what to do and who can help them.
  • Develop and maintain therapeutic relationships between medical personnel, providers, older people and family members.

Dr Brijnath hopes that if her Moving Pictures awareness model is successful she will be able to emulate it in India and China.

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