New communication tool to improve care for First Nations people living with dementia

NAIDOC Week Communication Cards Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander artist Samantha CampbellPicture cards illustrated by proud Dagoman woman Samantha Campbell will help the growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with dementia maintain crucial links to carers and communities.

Dementia Support Australia (DSA), funded by the Australian Government, has produced the set of culturally-appropropriate communication cards specifically to support ATSI people as their verbal skills decline.

DSA Director Associate Professor Colm Cunningham says the cards are the first of their kind designed to support older people and people with dementia from our First Nations. “The health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is strongly based on connection to Country, community, family and culture.

“These cards will provide the ability to communicate in a way that respects both the person and their culture with families, staff in aged care services and our DSA consultants.”

Dementia is a serious emerging health issue for First Nations populations who experience the disease at a rate between three to five times that of the general population with onset at an earlier age. The prevalence of other chronic health conditions, a lack of education and awareness and geographical constraints means the disease is often overlooked by health workers and service providers.

The picture cards will help carers and medical staff communicate key messages with the person they are caring for. The images can help a person to understand and participate in activities such as showering or going for a walk. The cards can also be used to reminisce or to start a conversation.

Samantha Campbell, based Darwin, illustrated and designed the cards. She says working on the project made her reflect on what sort of imagery would carry meaning that relates to the lived experiences of First Nations people across Australia. “When I illustrated the doctor, for example, I avoided drawing on stereotypes of a westernised doctor dressed in a white coat.

“This is because some First Nations people may perceive white coats and hospitals as places where people go to when they’re sick and don’t return home. So I illustrated someone in a casual shirt, to depict a ‘friendly bush doctor’."

The set of 58 illustrated cards are divided into eight categories: People, Activities/Objects, Food/Drinks, Personal care, Health, Feelings, Places, and Animals. Each card has the English word and includes space on the back to write the word in the language of the person.

NAIDOC Week Communication Cards Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander card Yarning   NAIDOC Week Communication Cards Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander card Bush tucker   NAIDOC Week Communication Cards Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander card Doctor   NAIDOC Week Communication Cards Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander card Paining

DSA, a service led by HammondCare, provides rapid, comprehensive and intensive dementia-specific in-reach services to aged care homes across Australia to help aged care residents living with complex dementia, including First Nations people.

Card packs are available to carers or services on request. Both colour and black-and-white versions can be downloaded.

Click here to order or download