Delivering risk reduction messages to high-risk Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups

The ratio of Aboriginal people to non-Aboriginal people living in the NT is far greater than for any other state or territory in Australia.

The 2011 census revealed that 2.5% of the Australian population are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, whereas 27% of the NT population are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people - ten times the national average.

A factor that increases the significance of this disparity is that Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people are approximately three times more likely to be affected by dementia than non-Aboriginals1, and at a younger age, which inevitably identifies Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people as an ‘at risk’ group.

Of growing relevance, particularly for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, are the benefits of ‘risk reduction’ achievable through community education as it has the potential to slow the symptoms of dementia, thereby extending life expectancy and improving quality of life in later age. Living a healthy lifestyle can also lessen the risk of developing dementia in the long-term.

Recognising the benefits of risk reduction, particularly for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities and lower socio-economic groups, Dementia Australia NT delivers education programs such as ‘What is Dementia’ and ’Your Brain Matters’ to these higher-risk groups.

Dementia Australia NT has been providing 2-3 hour dementia risk reduction education sessions at correctional facilities focussed on rehabilitation for staff and clients.

It is the role of the Service Access Liaison Officer to deliver basic dementia information and risk reduction strategies to people within rehabilitation or correctional facilities in the NT, and it is a role that for SALO officer Rufaro Nyamusara - is a rewarding one.

“One of the most rewarding part of this community education is coming across individuals around the social hubs who have undergone rehabilitation, witnessing the transformation and hearing them say for themselves that they remember the information sessions delivered on “What is Dementia?” and “Your Brain Matters” and have actually taken on board some or all the risk reduction steps and are working towards achieving a brain healthy lifestyle,” Rufaro said.

The presentations cover:

  • Dementia Australia NT what the organisation does
  • An overview of what is dementia
  • Lifestyle factors that may reduce the risks of dementia, or at least, enhance 'quality of life' if and when diagnosed
  • 'Advance planning' for personal and financial security.

The importance of community focused dementia education is that dementia is increasing within the community and most people will be impacted in one way or another, either, as a person with dementia, a friend or carer, or during the normal course of a daily activities. Dementia awareness can also greatly enhance the interaction for both parties.

People with dementia are people with a progressive disease that is ultimately fatal. It is important to appreciate that following diagnosis there is a period of time during which the person remains virtually unchanged, and the progression is relatively slow, ranging anything from two to twenty years.

Statistics reveal that younger onset dementia (a diagnosis of dementia under the age of 65) is on the increase, which brings the prospect of ‘risk reduction’ well and truly into focus.

It is also very important for everyone, irrespective of age, to be aware of the importance of advanced planning for the future from both a personal and financial perspective.

 

1 Radford, K., Mack, H. A., Draper, B., Chalkley, S., Daylight, G., Cumming, R., ... & Broe, G. A. (2015). Prevalence of dementia in urban and regional Aboriginal Australians. Alzheimer's & Dementia, 11(3), 271-279.