Bi-lingual health workers drive home dementia messages in culturally and linguistically diverse communities

A pilot project is underway to determine if using trained bi-lingual health workers is a sustainable way to raise awareness about dementia in culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

The two year pilot project, through Dementia Australia Vic, has entered Phase 2 and involves developing a train-the-trainer model for bi-lingual health workers from ethno-specific agencies to deliver information sessions about dementia to their communities.

Initially, the project established a culturally and linguistically diverse advisory group to provide advice to the project and involved agencies like the Australian Greek Welfare Society, the Australian Croatian Community Services, Chinese Community Social Services Centre Inc., Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association, the Mauritian Silver Edge Club Inc., CO.AS.IT and the Maltese Community Council.

The program gives trainees the knowledge and skills to prepare and facilitate information sessions to their communities using the Dementia Australia Vic ‘8 things you need to know about dementia’ resource.

In the first year, six trainees successfully completed the program and are now delivering information sessions to their communities.

The six trainees in the first year of the project were from the Greek, Croatian and Chinese communities. The presenters are able to quickly build rapport with their audience and their ability to deliver information in the audience’s first language helps to provide a relevant cultural context and break down the stigma and myths associated with dementia.

Key findings from an external RMIT evaluation identified the quality of the presentations, the advantages of providing dementia education in community languages and the elements of model that contributed to the success of the training.

There was also clear feedback that presenting the session in the audience’s first language has benefits in terms of:

  • The cultural relevance of the presentations
  • engaging the audience to trust in what the presenters were saying
  • dispelling myths about dementia, and
  • reducing risks associated with using an interpreter.

The audience is also provided with a copy of the bilingual ‘8 things you need to know about dementia’ booklet, which allows participants to take home the information to read and share with their families. This reinforces the messages delivered in the session and helps to spread the word about dementia.

The Dementia Australia Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Advisory group continues to provide advice to the project, which is now in Phase 2. Representatives from two additional community groups are now involved from the Vietnamese and French-Mauritian communities. Learning from Phase 1 has been implemented in Phase 2 but overall the project has shown clearly the benefits of using bilingual presenters. The longevity of the program will require investment.

The project has been made possible by an Aged Care Service Improvement and Healthy Ageing Grant from the Australian Department of Health.