A new project from the University of Queensland aims to develop culturally appropriate assessments for people living with dementia in the Torres Strait.

Dr Leander Mitchell from the University of Queensland was awarded a $75,000 Dementia Australia Research Foundation Pilot Grant and will use the funding to develop tools to measure depression and anxiety in people living with dementia in the Torres Strait.  

Rates of dementia are almost three times higher in Torres Strait communities than the wider population and rates of depression and anxiety are also higher in First Nations populations.

Dr Mitchell says, “a lot of the measures that we have in place just aren’t taking in the cultural elements.”

“Whilst clinicians have a range of assessment tools for use in the general community, there are no culturally appropriate measures for use in the Torres Strait – this increases the risk of getting the diagnosis wrong, which can result in people getting the wrong treatment for the wrong condition.”

“These tools have to be acceptable to Torres Strait people and also measure depression and anxiety accurately – doctors and health workers can then use these tools when assessing someone with thinking and memory problems to help them work out if the person has dementia or a psychological disorder and therefore what treatment is needed.”

Dr Mitchell says she is incredibly grateful to Dementia Australia Research Foundation for the funding, which will go towards logistics, and ensure the job gets done properly.

She said there is limited research into this area, and she hopes her own research will promote greater understanding of the role culture plays in mental health issues and in making sure you get the right diagnosis.

Dr Leander Mitchell’s full interview with NIRS.