Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

+ General Country Information
+ History
+ Concept of Time
+ Family and friends
+ Gender
+ I or We Attitudes
+ Manners and Taboos
+ Spiritual care
+ Communication Style
+ Greetings
+ Language and Communication
+ Non-verbal Communication - Eye contact
+ Non-verbal Communication - Gestures
+ Non-verbal Communication - Personal Space
+ Attitudes and understanding of dementia and other health issues
+ Attitudes to end of life care
+ Attitudes to pain
+ Attitudes to residential care
+ Care information
+ Cultural Activities
+ Cultural Traits
+ Food and Diet
+ Music
+ Special Days - Christmas
+ Special Days - Easter
+ Special Days - New Year
+ Special Days - Other
+ Superstitions

Compare with another culture

Generalist

General overview

Australia  

  • Australia is located in the continent of Oceania.
  • It does not share land borders with any other countries and is made up of more than 8,000 islands, including the Torres Strait Islands.
  • Australia is officially known as the Commonwealth of Australia and the capital city is Canberra.
  • Australia is the sixth largest nation in the world with a total area of 7,682,300km2 and the population of Australia stands at approximately 24,000,000 people. (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016, Population clock).
  • The climate in Australia is varied. In the northern parts of the country Australia has a tropical climate and the southern parts of Australia has a temperate climate.
  • In 2011, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of Australia was 669,900 people, or approximately 3% of the total Australian population. (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).
  • Approximately 30% of the Northern Territory population comprises of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the highest proportion of any state or territory. (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

Torres Strait Islands

  • Although separated by sea, The Torres Strait Islands, are considered to be part of the Australian state of Queensland. (Torres Strait Island Regional Council).
  • The tip of Cape York in North Queensland is also classified as part of the Torres Strait and two communities are located there. (Torres Strait Island Regional Council).
  • The islands, which consist of more than 100, are located between the northern Australian mainland and Papua New Guinea. (Torres Strait Island Regional Council).
  • Many of the Islands are prone to flooding.
  • Torres Strait Islander communities inhabit seventeen of these islands. (Torres Strait Island Regional Council).
  • The climate of the Torres Strait Islands is tropical, with a wet season and a dry season. The warm temperature does not vary much throughout the year with daytime temperatures generally ranging from around the high 20’s to the low 30’s.

Tips

  • Understand that a person’s country of birth does not define their culture. Whilst we are “born into culture” we are not “born with culture”. A person’s “culture” is something that is learnt from our environment and by our individual experiences. It continuously adapts to our changing circumstances throughout our lives.
  • Determine what culture or cultures your care recipient identifies with.
  • Keep in mind that the culture in metropolitan areas varies with culture in rural areas and that culture in different regions within a country may also vary significantly.
  • Learn about your care recipient’s life history, and who they identify with, to determine their individual cultural traits. Document any significant details.
  • Understand how your care recipient’s culture informs their values, behaviours, beliefs assumptions, likes, dislikes and sensitivities.

Resources

Generalist

Before colonisation

  • The original custodians of Australia are the two Indigenous populations, the Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Indigenous people thrived in the natural environment with their unique social, cultural and spiritual ways of living and each community had its own language and traditions.

Colonisation

  • With colonisation also came the lack of understanding of Indigenous culture, armed conflict, food shortages and disease.
  • Indigenous people became governed by new laws which dictated their lifestyle conditions, including where there they could live.
  • Laws were introduced that enabled the forcible removal of children, which is now referred to as the ‘Stolen Generations’.
  • Many Indigenous lives, languages, traditions and customs were lost during this period of time.
  • Indigenous people were not included in the national census or identified as Australian citizens until the referendum in 1967.
  • In 1992 the High Court of Australia ruling on the ‘Mabo’ case determined that Australia was not uninhabited when the British arrived in Australia, and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were the traditional owners of the land.
  • For further information, refer to History Resources.

Tips

  • Determine exactly where your care recipient was born and where they lived. For example; was your care recipient born in Australia, or did they migrate to Australia? If they migrated, how and why did your care recipient migrate to Australia? What experiences and associations do they have of their home country? If they have lived in other countries; where have they lived? How long did they spend in other countries and what did they do whilst they were there?
  • Be aware and sensitive to any stress that may have been experienced as a result of their history (this may include; family separation, homesickness, conflict, depression and isolation).
  • The knowledge of a person’s history may assist with a better understanding of the care recipient as well as any associated psychological issues resulting from their past.
  • Understand how your care recipient’s culture informs their values, behaviours, beliefs assumptions, likes, dislikes and sensitivities and document any significant details.

Resources

Generalist

  • Australian Indigenous cultures are built around “collectivist” kinship systems.
  • This means that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people think of themselves as part of a larger network of connections to others and the community and act primarily in the interests of the group.

Tips

  • Identify and document if your care recipient is an “individualist” with an “I” attitude of self and immediate family, or a “collectivist” with a “we” or group attitude, or if they have both “collectivist” and “individualist” traits.
  • Allow for a “collectivist” person to feel the comfort of doing most things in a group setting and for an “individualist” person to have more opportunities for themselves.

Resources

Generalist

  • Spirituality for Indigenous Australians takes many forms and the significance and complexity of Indigenous spirituality makes it very difficult to describe in English language.
  • Spirituality to Indigenous people confirms their identity, relates to their complete way of life and their view on life.
  • Associations of traditional Aboriginal spiritual beliefs (known as ‘The Dreaming’) are based on a kinship with nature, air, sea, the land and the influence of ancestral spiritual beings.
  • The Dreaming varies amongst Aboriginal communities and is the foundation of their culture, which provides the basis for identity.
  • For Torres Strait Islander people, Creation Stories or Legends provide a foundation for their identity.
  • Christianity and other religions were introduced to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people following colonisation.
  • Approximately 3.4% of the Australian population follows ‘Aboriginal Traditional Religion’ (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

General

  • Australia is a multicultural country with diverse spiritual and religious practices.
  • Different cultures and religions have different expectations of care in regards to toileting, dressing and feeding.
  • Every culture and religion vary greatly in spiritual needs and this may impact on the acceptability of certain treatments and medications. Therefore, it is paramount to identify the care recipient’s religion and cultural background to appropriately address the supports and services required.
  • For further information, refer to Spiritual care resources.

Tips

  • Accept and respect that customs, religious and spiritual beliefs vary from one culture to another and that the beliefs of your care recipient may significantly differ to your own beliefs.
  • Utilise resources and attend training sessions to increase your own knowledge about different religious and spiritual beliefs.
  • It is useful to ask care recipients a range of questions such as; ‘what helps you cope in difficult times’ and ‘what is important to you’ to determine ways to enhance their care.
  • Be aware of the significance of spiritual needs to your care recipient. Identify and document their religious beliefs and spiritual needs such as; any special requirements regarding food, personal care, linguistic needs or religious impacts towards treatments and/or medication.
  • Identify and provide access to relevant religious literature, radio, TV, live stream services, DVDs and CDs.
  • Support care recipients to maintain religious networks and religious representation and facilitate outings to places of worship.
  • Acknowledge and observe days of religious significance to your care recipients in a culturally appropriate manner.

Resources

Generalist

  • The extended family has a significant role to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Kinship and family is central to Indigenous culture. Indigenous people have unique, dynamic and complex family and kinship responsibilities.
  • Spirituality practices provide a greater sense of identity, and because of this Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are strongly connected, and they support, help and protect one another.
  • The extended family play a major role in teaching Indigenous people how to behave, how to interact with other people and how to interact with the land.
  • It is considered that raising children is a shared responsibility of all community members.
  • Elderly family members are highly respected and play a significant role in daily life as they bridge the past and the present and provide guidance for the future. They also teach important Indigenous traditions and pass on their skills, their knowledge and their personal experiences. Elders may also speak with people outside the community, such as the government or service providers, on behalf of the community.
  • ‘Stolen Generations’ is the term used to describe the forced separation of Indigenous children from their families that took place across Australia from the late 1800s until 1969. During this time as many as 100,000 children were separated from their families and either put in government-run institutions, adopted by ‘white’ families or fostered by ‘white’ families.
  • Due to the Stolen Generations, an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander may not know their family ancestry. Asking direct questions like ‘who is your mob’ could be considered as ‘shame’ for that person so sensitivity is required with this topic.
  • It is important to gain a good understanding of your care recipient’s family dynamics, who the ‘right person’ is for the care recipient to confide in and who to advise in decision making.
  • In some communities an uncle may have more authority with a child than either the child’s mother or father.
  • There are also forbidden relationships within some communities (for example; avoidance of a mother-in-law with the son-in-law) that must be respected.
  • Indigenous family meetings may involve up to 30 people, some of whom may need to come from a considerable distance, and because of this an agreed decision may take days to make.

Tips

  • Be aware and sensitive to the fact that some people may have become separated from family for a range of reasons including; Stolen Generations, war, conflict, disaster or migration.
  • Families and friends from different cultures will have a different understanding of dementia and their expectation of care for their loved one may vary significantly.
  • Provide communication and information in accordance with their language and literacy level and facilitate all achievable care expectations.
  • Gain an understanding of the dynamics of your care recipient’s family and friends and engage with them whenever required/needed.
  • Ensure that roles in decision-making about care of the person with dementia have been clearly established and documented.
  • Research indicates that carers of people living with dementia experience greater strain and distress than carers of other people.
  • It is important to be sensitive to the feelings of shame and guilt that family members and friends may be experiencing.
  • "Family and friends" Resources

  • A range of information to help support family and friends is available in the “Family and friends, resources” section below.
  • A range of health information helpsheets in various languages are available in the “Language and communication, resources” section of this app.

Resources

Generalist

  • Languages spoken may be a very sensitive topic for some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as many native languages have been lost and many are endangered.

Traditional Indigenous languages

  • Prior to colonisation, it is thought there were about 250 Indigenous languages or around 500 when including the various dialects.
  • Languages were unique to different Indigenous groups.
  • Following European colonisation people were often forbidden from speaking traditional languages and other languages were learnt such as English or creoles (Australian creoles often include a combination of English and Indigenous languages).
  • Languages also became extinct or threatened due to the massacres of many Indigenous lives and declining populations.

Current Indigenous languages

  • Today there are about 100 Indigenous languages, but only around 50 that are actively spoken with 150 or more speakers.
  • Approximately 61,000 people speak an Indigenous language, which includes 19% who speak an Australian creole (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).
  • A large number of people speak the following Indigenous languages: Arrernte cluster, Djambarrpuyngu, Pitantjatjara and Walpiri.
  • Indigenous language is spoken by the majority (60%) of the Indigenous population in the Northern Territory.
  • Indigenous language speakers reside mainly in the Northern Territory (56.1%), whilst the remaining speakers live in Queensland (19.8%), Western Australia (15.6%) and South Australia (5.9%) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).
  • English may not be the first language of Indigenous people, especially for those who live in rural or remote communities where it is more common for Indigenous people to be more familiar with another language or multiple other languages.

Torres Strait Islanders languages

  • Two distinct languages are commonly spoken on the Torres Strait: Kala Lagaw Ya and several dialects of that are the Western-central Torres Strait language and Merian Mir, is the language spoken on the eastern islands.

Community terms

  • A range of terms can be used to describe Indigenous groups, communities or positions that are generally considered acceptable, including: clan, community, country, elder, mob, nation, tribal owner and tribe. It is important to understand what terms are considered acceptable and terms that are not considered acceptable to individual Indigenous people.

 Deceased people

  • There are often protocols around avoidance of naming deceased people.
  • Naming protocols may differ between communities.
  • Consult with communities regarding the appropriate procedures, such as the name/s to be avoided, the timeframe of avoidance and the protocol required for use of images of the deceased.

Tips

  • Being able to communicate effectively is crucial to the physical and emotional well-being of the care recipient.
  • Be careful not to underestimate or assume the communication capacity of a person with dementia.
  • Ensure that the care recipient has participation in decisions that affect them.
  • The words you use when speaking to, and about, a person with dementia matters. It is important to always use positive and enabling language and to not use words that may cause offense.
  • Ensure the health care and personal care plans and reviews identify and support the linguistic needs of your care recipient and their family.  Be mindful that linguistic considerations should include the care recipients’ menu choices, food services, their religious and spiritual needs, and their ability to participate in activities. Determine what language(s) they are able to speak, read and write. Communicate with them and provide information according to their language preference and literacy level.
  • Identify and record and health issues such as poor hearing, poor eyesight, dehydration or problems with dentures to ensure there is no miscommunication with your care recipient.
  • Be aware that most people with dementia will revert back to their native tongue and/or other languages they have learnt.
  • Care recipients should always be given the choice to use professional translators and interpreters. Provide professional translators and interpreters to your care recipients and/or to their family whenever they request the need, when the care plan is developed, when the care plan is reviewed and at any time when “informed consent” is required.
  • Care recipients often prefer to communicate with a care worker from their own cultural background therefore the use of bilingual staff or volunteers should be always be considered and provided whenever possible. The care recipient should however be given this choice rather than it be assumed that this is their preference.
  • Provide visual aids, use gestures and physical prompts, and learn and use key words in the person’s own language to improve communication during routine care and other simple service interventions.
  • Ensure that communication is adapted to the care recipient’s level of dementia and understand the importance of allowing more time for those in later stages to understand and respond to you.
  • Support your care recipients' individual choices by providing access to media such as radio, TV, live stream services, DVDs, CDs and books in their preferred language.
  • All staff and volunteers should undertake training in cultural awareness, appropriate communication and the correct use of telephone and on-site interpreting services.

Language and Communication resources

  • Refer to the “Language and Communication, Resources” section below for a wide range of information (including communication cards, signage, health information in community languages, etc.)
  • Translating and Interpreter contact details and other relevant information is available in the "Links, Translating and Interpreting" section. 

Advice and Support

  • Seek advice and support from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) if required – phone 1800 699 799.

Resources

Generalist

  • Use of correct title and name is important.
  • Some Indigenous people may wish to be known by their clan or island name.
  • It is always best to ask Indigenous people how they wish to be greeted and referred to.

Acceptable terms

  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people can be respectfully referred to by the following terms: Aboriginal person, Torres Strait Islander person, First Australian, The name of the local group.

Other terms

  • ‘Aunty’, ‘Uncle’, ‘Brother,’ ‘Sister’ are often used as signs of respect, especially for older people. However, these terms should only be used after good rapport is established and the invitation has been given.
  • There are names derived from Indigenous languages which relate to the specific areas people are from. These may be used by people to describe themselves. These include: Murri (in northwest New South Wales and Queensland, Noongar (in southwest Western Australia), Nunga (in South Australia, Yolngu (in northeast Arnhem Land, Northern Territory).

Tips

  • Start building trust and rapport from the first time you meet your care recipient. Ensure you correctly pronounce their name. Smile and speak clearly. Be respectful and make sure the care recipient understands you.
  • Establish and document how your care recipient prefers to be greeted. Take into account; formality, titles, preferred name(s), any different greeting expectations from different genders or from people from a different generation, and the way(s) they like and dislike to be greeted. 
  • Understand that a person with severe dementia will think that each time they see you during the day is for the first time. Therefore ensure that you greet them in an appropriate, friendly and caring manner each time you meet.

Language and Communication resources

  •  A wide range resources such as language apps, language guides, translating and interpreting services etc. are available in the “Links” section of this app.

Advice and Support

  • Seek advice and support from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) if required – phone 1800 699 799.

Resources

Generalist

Agreement

  • Indigenous people may agree with what has been said or asked during a conversation, despite that it may not reflect their beliefs on the issue.
  • Agreement was often used by Indigenous people who were raised under a government system to keep ‘out of trouble’. This communication style has continued on to the next generations. This is an example of what is known as ‘inter-generational’ trauma.
  • It is important to be aware of this communication style and take the time to allow for good rapport to develop.

Shame/Shame job

  • ‘Shame’ or ‘shame job’ as it may be referred is something that an Indigenous person is embarrassed about.
  • Indigenous people may feel ‘shame’ if they are singled out. This can include being singled out in a positive way, such as praised in front of others because they do not wish to appear better than others.
  • It is best to avoid singling an Indigenous person out. Privately consulting with the person might be more appropriate. 

Silence 

  • Silence is common in Indigenous communication.
  • A person may be taking time to consider their response or waiting for the input of others before making comment.
  • It is important to allow for silence during conversations.

Swearing

  • Swearing is considered less offensive in Indigenous culture than it is in non-Indigenous cultures.
  • Some Indigenous people use swear words as part of everyday language.

Tips to use in communication with Indigenous individuals

  • Consider factors which may affect communication.
  • Traditional Indigenous culture places great value on building and maintaining relationships. Understanding about a person before talking about business helps build trust and rapport.
  • Respect the use of silence.
  • Prefacing sensitive questions with explanations about why you need the information is helpful as it allow the Indigenous person time to prepare for their answer and to feel safe about why the question is being asked.

Tips

Care recipient

  • Identify the communication style of your care recipient.
  • Be aware that communication styles vary from one culture to another.
  • Realise that physical, sensory, psychological and social issues can impact on the ability to communicate effectively. Make a note of any that are relevant to your care recipient.

Care worker

  • To ensure that the care recipient can understand you avoid speaking too quickly or using slang, acronyms or jargon. Also try not to give too much information at one time.
  • Be aware not to use patronising speech or a demeaning tone as this can lead to a communication breakdown.
  • Remember than non-verbal communication such as body language is just as important as verbal communication. Ensure that your tone matches your body language to avoid miscommunication.
  • Be kind and caring in your communication with the care recipient. Remember the person with dementia has a lifetime of experiences and is a person with feelings, even though may have lost the capacity to think or behave like they used to.

Language and Communication resources

  •  A wide range resources such as language apps, language guides, translating and interpreting services etc. are available in the “Links” section of this app.

Advice and Support

  • Seek advice and support from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) if required – phone 1800 699 799.

Resources

Generalist

  • Indigenous people may prefer to use either direct eye contact or indirect eye contact.
  • Indirect eye contact may be preferred by some Indigenous people as it implies respect within their culture.
  • In some situations, direct eye contact may be viewed as a sign of rudeness, disrespect or aggression.
  • Between genders, eye contact may indicate jealousy, shame or disrespect.
  • Direct eye contact may be considered appropriate in Torres Strait Islander culture between people of the same gender.
  • Direct eye contact between people of the same gender may be interpreted as showing interest and being honest.
  • Direct eye contact may be preferred by Indigenous people that have lived with strong Anglo-Saxon influences in their life.
  • Whist direct eye contact may be considered polite, staring should be avoided as this is usually considered as being rude.
  • Care workers should take the cue from the individual Indigenous person that they speak with as to whether eye contact is appropriate or not.
  • Direct eye contact may be preferred by Indigenous people that have lived with strong Anglo-Saxon influences in their life.
  • Whist direct eye contact may be considered polite, staring should be avoided as this is usually considered as being rude.
  • Care workers should take the cue from the individual Indigenous person that they speak with as to whether eye contact is appropriate or not.

Tips

  • Determine and document if the care recipient prefers direct or indirect eye contact and if there are any different expectations from different genders or from people from a different generation.

Resources

Generalist

  • There are differences in the way non-verbal communication gestures are used and viewed between Indigenous individuals.
  • Many Indigenous people use body language that is more intended, reflective, thoughtful and unhurried.
  • Making your gestures and movements reflect those of your client recipient will aid in them feeling more comfortable.
  • Many Indigenous people use touch with those they are familiar with, however it may be considered inappropriate or even offensive to touch someone they are not familiar with.
  • If touch is required for clinical reasons, it is best to make the individual feel comfortable by establishing rapport and explaining what it is required.
  • Touch may be a sign of respect or comfort when rapport has been established.

Tips

  • Any gestures you use need to be respectful to the person with dementia.
  • Body language can provide important clues and increased understanding for both the carer and the care recipient. However many gestures have different meanings in different cultures therefore take care to ensure there is no miscommunication.
  • Document any gestures that the care recipient prefers to use or any gestures they find offensive.
  • Determine if the care recipient has expectations from different genders or from people from a different generation in relation to the use of touch. For example; if they find it appropriate/comforting for someone to hold their hand when they are upset or in pain.

Resources

Generalist

  • Personal space is important to most Indigenous people.
  • Be aware that standing too close to someone may make the person feel uncomfortable or even threatened, particularly if they are unfamiliar with you or if you are of the opposite gender.

Tips

  • Determine and document how the care recipient feels about their personal space and if there are any different expectations from different genders or from people from a different generation.
  • Allow for a “collectivist” person (with a “we” or group attitude) to feel the comfort of doing most things in the space with others (group settings) and for an “individualist” person (with an “I” attitude of self and immediate family) to have opportunities to have personal space for themselves.

Resources

Generalist

  • Indigenous people are generally not punctual. Instead, they tend to practice flexibility with time.
  • Greater emphasis is given to family responsibilities and community relationships than to keeping schedules.
  • Establishing and maintaining relationships are more important to Indigenous people than time.

The Dreaming and time

  • Time is circular, as each generation relives the Dreaming activities and time refers to the past, the present and the future.

Communication

  • Take time to explain situations to Indigenous people and do not rush them.
  • It is important to respect pauses or silence in conversations with Indigenous people and to allow them time to respond.
  • It is important to be mindful that there are situations such as ‘Sorry Business’, (cultural practices associated with death and funerals) that are unsuitable for communication with Indigenous people as cultural protocols take priority over other matters at these times.

Appointments

  • If possible, consider allocating flexible consultation times.

Tips

  • Determine and document how the care recipient and the family view “the concept of time”. For example; do they like to be punctual? Do they expect others to be punctual?
  • Ensure the care recipient's concept of time does not adversely impact on meal times, activities and other scheduled events.
  • Be mindful that shaming and blaming someone for being late can cause feelings of guilt and low self-esteem. Instead, use positive communication. For example; you might ask “Would a different time would be more suitable”?

Resources

Generalist

Global Gender Gap Index 2016 rankings

  • Australia was ranked 46th on a global index measuring gender equality out of 144 countries. (World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2016).

Marriage

  • Indigenous marriages took place before colonisation. A wife would not only bear children, but would also play a significant part in providing everyday meals by hunting small mammals, fishing and collecting plants as  men would often be absent from the household undertaking large-scale hunting.
  • It was common for young girls to be promised to become the wife of a man by her parents and a man was permitted to have more than one wife.
  • After colonisation, there were different state laws relating to Indigenous people that controlled where they could live and who they could or could not marry.
  • The Marriage Act 1961 (known as the Marriage Act) was introduced to regulate marriage law uniformly across Australia. (Australian Government).
  • Today in Australia, marriage for an Indigenous person is entered into with full and free consent of both the male and female.
  • Indigenous traditional marriage is not officially recognised by the Commonwealth Government, although limited acknowledgement may exist in some states and territories for purposes such as wills and inheritance.
  • In remote Indigenous communities, customary marriages may still take place.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Instersex, Queer and Questioning (LGBTIQ)

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have diverse sexualities, sex or gender, generally have numerous challenges including; being accepted by their families and communities, the mainstream community and from the LGBTI community.
  • A small number of remote traditional Indigenous cultures, such as ‘Tiwi Islanders’, have traditionally included and supported ‘Sistergirls’ and ‘Brotherboys’ (Indigenous people that have diverse sex and genders). (Creative Spirits).

Inheritance

  • Very few Indigenous people create a ‘will’ and this may cause family disputes regarding the inheritance of land and property as well as cause delays with the burial. (Creative Spirits).

Violence

  • In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience violence at rates that are often double or more than those experienced by non-Indigenous people, and this rate may be even higher in some remote communities.
  • In particular, Indigenous women are far more likely to suffer serious violence.

Men’s and Women’s Business

  • Aboriginal Law dictates that there are traditional practices that should be carried out by men and women separately and there are consequences if these rules are broken.
  • This is often referred to as ‘Men’s Business’ and ‘Women’s Business’.
  • This may also apply in the care setting, where it may be appropriate for the care worker and the care recipient of the same gender to discuss the business (or issue).

Tips

  • For many people with dementia the gender of the care workers is important, particularly in sensitive situations. Determine and document if they have any preferences, concerns or expectations regarding care provided by someone of a different gender.
  • Accept and respect that male-female roles in families may vary significantly among different cultures.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersexed (LGBTI) people with dementia

  • Don’t assume the gender preference of the person with dementia.
  • Recognise that even those that have children may not be completely heterosexual and understand that it could take some time for a care recipient to gain enough trust to share personal information about their gender preference.
  • Begin by evaluating yourself and any assumptions, phobias, biases or beliefs that you might hold internally.
  • Utilise resources and attend training sessions to increase your own knowledge about LGBTI people.
  • Understand the importance of your first and immediate reaction or response. Be aware of your own reactions - not only what you think, but also be aware of what you say and what body language you use.
  • Most LGBTI people have experienced rejection, stigma, discrimination and abuse and therefore have a fear of receiving inadequate treatment, being denied services or facing further discrimination or prejudice. It is vitally important to create a non-judgmental open and caring atmosphere free from discrimination. Confidentiality is also a vital aspect of care for LGBTI care recipients.
  • Be careful with the terminology you use to the care recipient and their partners.
  • Provide partners of LGBTI care recipients with the same respect and privileges that you would give to a spouse or relative.      

Resources

Generalist

  • Dementia is a major health issue in Australia, with more than 353,800 Australians living with dementia. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2012, Dementia in Australia).
  • Research studies indicate that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience dementia at a rate three to five times higher than the non-Indigenous Australian population. (Alzheimer’s Australia).
  • To increase awareness of dementia in Australia, Alzheimer’s Australia holds an annual Dementia Awareness Month each September.
  • Internationally, Alzheimer’s associations unite to acknowledge World Alzheimer’s Day on the 21st of September.

Indigenous communities and dementia

  • There is no word that translates to ‘dementia’ in any of the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages.
  • Studies suggest that there is limited understanding of dementia, it often goes unrecognised in Indigenous communities and it is often perceived differently by Indigenous people.
  • Indigenous people may be reluctant to seek help.
  • Education and awareness, risk reduction strategies and culturally appropriate services are recognised needs to be provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. (Alzheimer’s Australia, 2015 National Workshop Communique).

Attitudes to disability and illness

  • According to studies, some Indigenous people may believe that sickness and disability are due to ‘supernatural causes’ or may be considered as ‘a part of getting old’.

Tips

  • The amount of understanding and acceptance of dementia may vary significantly among different cultures, families and individuals. Determine the understanding of dementia of the care recipient and their family, if they accept dementia and if stigma is associated.
  • Provide information to the care recipient and their family according to their language preference and literacy level.
  • Ensure that people with dementia and their families are aware of dementia information and of support services available.

Dementia resources

  • A wide range of information is available in the Attitudes and understanding of dementia disability and illness, resources section below.
  • Contact details for Alzheimer’s Australia offices are available in the “Links, Alzheimer’s Australia offices” section of this app.

Advice and Support

  • Seek advice and support from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) if required – phone 1800 699 799.

Resources

Generalist

  • Residential care is generally not viewed favourably and most Indigenous people prefer to be cared for by their community and die on their land.
  • Indigenous people may not adjust well and decline rapidly when placed into mainstream residential care which may be contributed to factors including; having poorer health and higher rates of disability than non-Indigenous people and therefore requiring residential care  at a younger age than mainstream residents, having differing needs to non-Indigenous residents and facing challenges accessing culturally sensitive services, language barriers, and due to the lack of contact with their family and their community.
  • Additionally, Indigenous people that were placed in institutional care in their early years of life may have fear and trauma from that experience.

Tips

  • The meaning or value of residential or community care may vary greatly among cultures.
  • Be aware that many people will not want to hear about or talk about residential care until crisis point.
  • Understand that families and friends from different cultures will have different expectations for the care of people, particularly in regards to toileting, dressing, feeding and other self-help skills.
  • Allow the care recipient and their family to make choices to suit the individual’s care needs.
  • Ask care recipients questions about what can be done to achieve quality of life and help them have meaningful lives that enable them to pursue their cultural interests and passions in accordance with any frailty, disability or cognitive impairment.
  • Understand and facilitate all achievable care expectations of the care recipient and their family.

Resources

Generalist

  • Some Indigenous people may feel it is more important to return home or ‘back to country’ than to receive treatment for pain.
  • It is important for care providers to observe Indigenous care recipients closely as they may not speak up about their discomfort.
  • Pain behaviour studies suggest there is a need to be cautious of ethnic or cultural stereotypes. Therefore, even though there are findings of general cultural differences it is considered very important to evaluate the pain of each person individually.
  • Clinical recommendations regarding pain treatment are available in the “Attitudes to pain Resources” section of this app.

Tips

  • Research indicates that pain and discomfort are frequently under reported and under treated amongst people with dementia.
  • Ensure care recipients and their family understand pain relief medication and treatment options by providing information in their preferred language and in accordance with their language ability.
  • Religion and culture may influence your care recipients pain experience including; their pain expression, pain language, remedies for pain, social roles and expectations and perceptions of the medical care system.
  • Understand that for some religious or spiritual beliefs, fate and/or karma may mean that your care recipient also believes their illness and pain are caused by a higher power.
  • Care recipients may feel it is important to accept their pain in order to demonstrate their religious / spiritual faith. This may also impact their request for pain medication and treatment.
  • Identify and support the cultural and religious impact on the acceptability of certain treatments and medications.
  • Identify, respect and document how your care recipient and their family view and express pain.
  • Pay particular attention to verbal expressions of pain during later stages of dementia and ensure adequate treatment is provided.

Resources

Generalist

  • A sound understanding of the dying patient’s meaning of end of life care is imperative to truly deliver individualised palliative care.

Sorry business

  • When an Indigenous community member dies, the community follows traditional death ceremonies or ‘sorry business.’
  • Sorrow is shared by the whole community.
  • The time of mourning may differ between communities.
  • It is advised that care providers contact the local Aboriginal health service or land council to liaise with a family member, rather than go to family members directly when they are grieving.
  • There are specific cultural protocols around mentioning the deceased person’s name, and of any image, sound or video of that person.

Traditional practices

  • Traditional practices vary amongst communities.
  • Sorrow and supernatural fear accompany death.
  • Wailing or crying is common.
  • Mourners may paint their bodies with natural paints such as clay, red ochre or charcoal when a relative or friend died.
  • Some may wear a head covering made of feathers, whilst others may beat their bodies or cut themselves with shells or stone knives to cause bleeding. The period of mourning is considered to end when wounds are healed.
  • Traditional practices may still be observed in some Indigenous communities.

Death at a residential facility

  • When an Indigenous person dies away from the homeland the body will often need to be escorted and taken back to the homeland.
  • It is culturally appropriate to allow the ‘smoking’ of a room in which a patient has died.
  • It is important that all parts of a ‘body’ be sent back including; amputated limbs, gangrenous fingers, hair shaved to eliminate lice and clothes worn as these items are all deemed important parts of the person. Such items need to be collected and stored appropriately.

Tips

  • Understand that attitudes to end of life care, death and dying are diverse and may include a range of factors such as cultural and religious beliefs.
  • Be aware that the acceptance of certain treatments and medications are likely to be impacted upon by cultural and religious factors.
  • Identify and support “end of life choices” of care recipients and their family. Note: these are formally known as “Advanced Care Directives” or “Advanced Care Planning” depending on the state or territory in Australia that you are in. Ensure their choices are documented and strictly followed.
  • Ensure the linguistic needs of care recipients are addressed in end of life religious and spiritual support.
  • Ensure family members have access to appropriate resources and support in their preferred language and in accordance with their language ability.

Resources

Generalist

Manners and taboos in relationships

  • Traditionally, there are taboos regarding interactions with other people. For example; for some Indigenous people it is taboo to talk directly, look directly, or hand food to their parents-in-laws. These laws of respect are called ‘than-gun’.
  • The terms ‘ngathiina’ (father-in-law) and ‘biwul’ (mother-in-law) should be used instead of their names.
  • Indigenous groups may also follow other respect restrictions when interacting with different family members.
  • For many, there are also taboos regarding discussions of business that are considered specific to gender. This is usually known as ‘women’s business’ or ‘men’s business.’
  • Non-Indigenous people may confuse these laws as being rude, but in actual fact for Indigenous people they are a sign of respect. These respect relationships may still exist today, although the younger generations may perceive them as old fashioned.

Tips

  • “Manners” and “taboo” expectations and beliefs may vary greatly among cultures resulting in differing emotions and behaviours in your care recipient.
  • Be aware of your own beliefs and expectations of “manners” and “taboo” beliefs and how these may differ to those of your care recipient.
  • Be aware of judging other people's behaviour, expectations and beliefs according to the standards of your own culture.
  • Be aware that the care recipient may judge your behaviour according to the standard of their own culture.
  • It is important to recognise, accept and document individual interpretations of “manners” and “taboo” expectations and beliefs of your care recipient and their family.

Resources

Generalist

  • Some Indigenous Australians that have lived with strong Anglo-Saxon influences in their life believe in superstitions.
  • The most common superstitions include; if you break a mirror you will have 7 years bad luck and Friday 13th is an unlucky day.

Tips

  • Superstitions may be considered as old wives’ tales, family traditions or have a significant meaning and be taken seriously.
  • Be aware of your own beliefs and how these may differ to those of your care recipient.
  • Be aware of judging other people's superstitious beliefs according to the standards of your own culture.
  • Be aware that the care recipient may judge your beliefs according to the standard of their own culture.
  • It is important to recognise, accept and document individual interpretations of superstitious beliefs.

Resources

Generalist

Traditional Indigenous diet

  • Prior to European colonisation Indigenous Australians were hunters and gatherers and each member of the family had a role, such as hunting, collecting, preparing and cooking.
  • Indigenous Australians knew which foods were important for providing energy, as well as plants that could be used as medicine. This information was passed down from generation to generation.
  • The traditional Aboriginal diet included; native meats such as; kangaroo, emu, possum and goanna, as well as a variety of plant foods.
  • The traditional Torres Strait Islander diet included; meats such as pig, stingray, fish, shellfish, turtles and dugong, as well as a variety of plant foods.
  • Indigenous people believe that the land and animals were created by ancestral spirits of "the Dreaming", a time when the world was created.
  • There are traditional customs and religions that may govern the gathering, cooking and eating foods. For example, Indigenous people may have sacred links to certain animals or foods. These are known as totems. For someone with a totem, it may be forbidden to kill and eat their totem.

Foods introduced to the diet

  • The European colonisation saw the introduction of foreign foods such as; bread, tea and sugar.
  • More recently, processed foods such as cakes, potato chips, confectionery etc. were produced and widely available.
  • Alcohol was also introduced.
  • The introduction of foreign foods has meant that the traditionally healthy Indigenous diet has often been replaced by a highly processed and nutritionally poor diet. This has had detrimental effects on the health of Indigenous people.

Tips

  • Food is an important aspect of cultural identity, therefore it is important to identify food preferences, likes and dislikes including eating habits, meal times, preferred setting, preferred eating utensils etc.
  • Identify and facilitate cultural food when possible and ensure the impact of religion on food services is documented, adhered to and regularly reviewed.
  • Provide menu choices and food services information in the preferred language of care recipients, or with pictures if the person has difficulty reading. 
  • Consider alternative ways to facilitate culturally appropriate food such as; obtaining recipes from family/friends, specific meal delivery services, community groups, seniors’ clubs, or and/or other clubs.
  • Ensure that the care recipient is given food choices throughout all stages of dementia.
  • Food and diet resources
  • A wide range of information (including religious food requirements, nutrition information and recipes) is available in the “Food and diet resources” section below.
  • Advice and Support - Seek advice and support from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) if required – phone 1800 699 799

Resources

Generalist

  • A person-centred care approach helps organisations provide accessible, responsive and flexible services that meet the diverse needs and preferences of people living with dementia in our community. 
  • Many people with dementia want to remain independent for as long as possible and rely on the community care system to help them achieve this.

Additional Indigenous care considerations

  • Kinship obligations may mean that medical decisions need to be made in consultation with extended family members.
  • Time should be allowed for medical information to be understood and for the appropriate medical decision to be made with the benefit of extended family in mind.
  • It may be appropriate for non-Indigenous people to leave the room to allow for Indigenous people to discuss cultural matters in private so that the appropriate, informed decision can be made.
  • In instances where someone is thought responsible for illness or disease, saying of “sorry” by that person is regarded as very important. Failure to do so may result in punishment.

Traditional medicine

  • Traditional healers are significant for many Indigenous people.
  • Traditional healers may be used to support the physical, emotional and social wellbeing of the care recipient.
  • Treatments which include both traditional and western medicine are more culturally appropriate.
  • Indigenous people and their family should be involved in discussions and provided with clear choices regarding care. This includes options for medications where alternatives may be available.

Significant health issues

There are certain health issues that have been found to be more prevalent in Indigenous people, including:

  • Ear disease
  • Eye problems
  • Diabetes

High risk behaviours

  • Smoking rates amongst Indigenous people have decreased, however it is twice as common in Indigenous Australians as non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Alcohol is more likely to be consumed at harmful levels by Indigenous people than non-Indigenous people (AATSIHS).
  • Substances such as alcohol, tobacco and nicotine, and marijuana represent the most common substances for which treatment was sought amongst Indigenous Australians.

Sorry cuts

  • Care workers should be aware of a cultural practice known as ‘sorry cuts’ that may be practised to signify the grief of the loss of a family or community member.

Tips

  • Identify and document the care needs of your care recipient and continuously re-evaluate how their dementia progression affects their care needs.
  • Make every effort to understand a dementia behaviour before attempting to manage it, as you will often discover that what lies behind it is a genuine attempt to communicate an unmet need.  

Care information resources

  • A wide range of information is available (e.g. personal hygiene, sleeping, incontinence etc.) in the “Care information, resources” below.
  • Advice and Support - Seek advice and support from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) if required – phone 1800 699 799.
  • Employee/employer resources - A range of information is available under “Links – Other useful weblinks”.

Resources

Generalist

  • There is not just one Indigenous culture, instead there is a mixture of current and traditional thoughts, ways and practices.
  • Traditionally, Indigenous people pass on cultural traditions from one generation to the next. This includes rituals, performances, language and knowledge of sacred site and cultural objects.
  • Indigenous people living in urban areas may live less traditional lifestyles than those who live remotely, however cultural values, practices and obligations may still be followed.
  • For Indigenous people, culture, family, kinship and connections to the land and spirituality are very important.

Significance of ‘Land’ to Aboriginal culture

  • In Aboriginal culture, the land is life and culture cannot be separated from the land.
  • Stories, art and dance, as well as poetry and drama are used to share how the spirit ancestors created the land and rules for human behaviour.
  • Aboriginal people believe that they belong to, and are guardians of the land.

Significance of ‘Sea country’ to Torres Strait Islander culture

  • In Torres Strait Islander culture, the sea and its natural resources are inseparable to Torres Strait Islander identity as Traditional owners.
  • There is a strong social, spiritual and economic connection with the ‘sea country’ that continues to be practised and maintained today.

Torres Strait Islander culture

  • Torres Strait Islander culture, like Aboriginal culture, is very complex.
  • There are cultural variations within each island and community such as; language, dance and storytelling.
  • Cooking, fishing and hunting are taught from a young age and storytelling and music is passed down to each generation.
  • Post colonization has seen new cultural influences such as Christianity.

The Dreaming

  • Indigenous spiritual beliefs about creation and existence are known as ‘The Dreaming.’
  • The Dreaming incorporates all beliefs of Indigenous people and includes the past, present and the future.

Totems

  • Totems are sacred symbols that acknowledge specific animals, birds, rocks or plants.
  • Traditionally Indigenous people are given a totem from either their mother or father and they are passed from generation to generation without ever changing.
  • Totems hold great significance as they represent connections with the land, the Dreamtime and ancestors.

Kinship

  • Kinship is a unique and complex system of belonging and responsibility in Indigenous culture that incorporates not only the family but also relationships surrounding a totem. This represents personal and group connection to ancestral beings of the land.
  • Kinship influences daily life of Indigenous people, including individual responsibilities to other members in the clan.
  • Kinship ties also give the responsibility of passing knowledge of the Dreaming from Elders to other generations. The Dreaming is communicated at different degrees depending on a person’s age and their position within the community. Learning about and sharing the Dreaming is a life long journey.

Traditional Law

  • Indigenous people have long held a complex system of law known as ‘traditional law’ well before British law was introduced in Australia.
  • Traditional law includes the customs and stories of the Dreamtime. It is passed on through songs, stories and dance. It provides rules on how to interact with the land, kinship and the community.
  • In traditional law, there are no formal courts, but rather Indigenous Elders handle the situation.
  • In some remote Indigenous communities the traditional law is the main way of life.
  • In the Australian legal system, if someone offends they are punished through imprisonment and isolation from the community. In traditional Indigenous law, the matters are usually discussed with the community (including the victim and the offender) and punishment is decided and carried out.

‘Avoidance’ behaviour

  • The respect of cultural beliefs and customs restrict some interactions between Indigenous people, such as the use of certain language and being in the presence of certain people or groups.  For example, in some cases a son-in-law is unable to be in the presence of a father in-law, or a brother is not able to use his sister-in-law’s name.
  • There are also restrictions regarding discussions of business that are considered specific to gender. This is usually known as ‘women’s business’ or ‘men’s business.’
  • Avoidance issues may arise in clinical settings with discussion of certain topics such as urinary and reproductive issues.
  • In certain situations, Indigenous people are not permitted to discuss cultural or ceremonial protocol to non-Indigenous people or to other people that are not from the same clan or tribal group. This may create silence or absence.

Ceremonial life

  • Ceremonies are an important aspect of traditional Indigenous life and are still practised in some parts of Australia. These ceremonies may include rituals, chanting, singing and dancing to their Ancestral beings.
  • Indigenous ceremonies may continue for weeks. Some ceremonies may be open for women and children to attend, whilst others may be sacred and attendance to the ceremony may have restrictions.

Smoking ceremony

  • Indigenous people with specialised cultural knowledge conduct smoking ceremonies to cleanse people and the area in which the ceremony takes place.
  • Smoking ceremonies are considered significant and are therefore usually only performed for significant spiritual events. For example; a smoking of a room may be held after the death of an Indigenous person.

Appearance myths

  • One of the biggest myths is that if you have fair skin, or blue or green eyes, or light hair, you can’t be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
  • It is essential that people do not judge whether a person is Indigenous based on their physical appearance, such as the tone of their skin, hair or eye colour as diversity exists within the Indigenous community just as it does within multicultural Australia.

Tips

  • Everyone has “culture”. This includes a number of factors such as ethnicity, identity, age, gender, education, sexual orientation, ability/disability, values, beliefs, attitudes etc.
  • Recognise your own cultural traits and influences and be mindful not to judge other people’s behaviour and beliefs according to the standard of your own culture.
  • Be aware that your care recipient may judge your behaviour and beliefs according to the standard of their own culture.
  • Your care recipient may be “similar to others” but “no two people are the same” so take care not to generalise or make assumptions about them. Gain general cultural information from resources to assist with conversations to allow you to identify your care recipient’s individual cultural traits.
  • Understand and document how your care recipient’s individual cultural traits impact their care needs.
  • Increase your knowledge about different cultural practices and issues through resources, cultural background information sessions and/or cultural awareness training.

Cultural Traits resources

  • Find information (such as guides and cultural profiles created by other organisations) in the “Cultural Traits, resources” section below.
  • You will also find information including; links to community contacts, cultural profiles, useful weblinks etc. in the “Links” section of the app.

Resources

Generalist

  • Easter may or may not be celebrated by Indigenous individuals.
  • Easter is not celebrated by Indigenous people that follow traditional ways including many people living in remote communities.
  • Easter is celebrated by some Indigenous people, usually those who have lived with strong Anglo-Saxon influences in their life. (Refer to Easter in Australia - link)

Tips

  • Understand the importance of Easter to your care recipient and accept and respect that customs and beliefs about Easter are different from culture to culture.
  • Identify, document and support any spiritual/religious needs of your care recipients.
  • Identify, document and facilitate any dietary requirements.

Resources

Generalist

  • Christmas may or may not be celebrated by Indigenous individuals.
  • Christmas is not celebrated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that follow traditional ways.
  • Christmas is celebrated by some Indigenous people, usually those who have lived with strong Anglo-Saxon influences in their life. (Refer to Christmas in Australia - link)

Tips

  • Understand the importance of Christmas to your care recipient and accept and respect that customs and beliefs about Christmas are different from culture to culture.
  • Identify, document and support any spiritual/religious needs of your care recipients.
  • Identify, document and facilitate any dietary requirements.

Resources

Generalist

  • New Year may or may not be celebrated by Indigenous individuals.
  • New Year is not celebrated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that follow traditional ways.
  • New Year is celebrated by some Indigenous people, usually those who have lived with strong Anglo-Saxon influences in their life. (Refer to "New Year in Australia" - link)

Tips

  • Understand the importance of New Year to your care recipient and accept and respect that customs and beliefs about New Year are different from culture to culture.
  • Identify, document and support any spiritual/religious needs of your care recipients.
  • Identify, document and facilitate any dietary requirements.

Resources

Generalist

  • ‘Australia day’ has over the years been given a number of other names including; ‘Invasion Day’, ‘Day of Mourning’, ‘Survival Day’ or ‘Aboriginal Sovereignty Day’.  It is important for care workers to be aware that the 26th January is a day that not only symbolises the arrival of the first fleet in Australia and the founding of the colony in New South Wales, but to  many Indigenous people it is symbolic of great loss. Many Indigenous mourn their history on this day as it marks the loss of their sovereign rights to their land, loss of family and in many cases the loss of the right to practice their culture.

Dates that may be of significance include

  • 13 February - Anniversary of the ‘Apology’
  • In 2008, the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, MP officially apologised nationally for the past injustices to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia. (Australian Government).
  • 26 May - National Sorry Day
  • This is a day to remember and commemorate the history of Indigenous Australians and the unjust mistreatment towards them. (Australian Government).
  • 27 May – 3 June - Reconciliation Week
  • This is a week when various events are held throughout Australia. The week commences and ends with significant dates in the Reconciliation journey. The 27th May is the anniversary of the 1967 referendum, which resulted in a vote giving the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Indigenous people and to recognise Indigenous people in the national census. The week ends on another milestone date, the 3 June. This is the anniversary of the ‘Mabo’ decision that was made in 1992, that recognised Indigenous people have a special relationship with the land. (Australian Government).
  • 1 July - Coming of the Light
  • This day recognises during the late nineteenth century the religion of Christianity was adopted by Torres Strait Islander people throughout the Torres Strait Island communities. (Australian Government).
  • July (second week) - NAIDOC Week
  • NAIDOC week is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, their culture and achievements, and it is also an opportunity to recognise the great contributions that Indigenous people make to Australia. (Australian Government).
  • 4 August - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day
  • This is a day for Indigenous families to celebrate their children, their community and the importance of family and Indigenous culture. Activities and events are held throughout Australia and a different theme is decided for each year’s day of celebration. (Australian Government).
  • 9 August - International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
  • A day to promote and protect the rights of the population and to celebrate their wonderful achievements and contributions. (Australian Government).

Resources

Generalist

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are generally very social people and don’t like to feel lonely.
  • Activities of interest may include; walking, socialising (yarning) - particularly with people from their own community (mob), doing exercises / sporting activities, going on outings with people from their own community and doing cultural things such as singing songs/hymns in their own language and celebrating Aboriginal ways.
  • String games are common for some Indigenous individuals as the string figure can be made to look like dilly bags, baskets, animals, people or forces of nature. Sting games may also be used to help tell stories.                   

Reminiscence  

  • Smell or taste - Using smell kits, different foods. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are very earthy people and quickly pick up on smells. Suggestions include; wattleseed, quandong, finger lime, lemon myrtle, aniseed myrtle, mountain pepper, native basil, native thyme, rivermint, sea parsley/celery.    
  • Sight - Photographs, cookbooks, slides, films, painting pictures, looking at objects. (Refer to the “Cultural activities resource” section for some visual ideas).                                                        Important note: Sometimes it may be offensive to show an image of, or mention a deceased person so ensure correct protocols are used when using visuals.      
  • Touch - Touching objects, feeling textures, painting and pottery. Pampering, massage hands etc. (if it is considered culturally appropriate by the care recipient and they trust you to do this without being intrusive).
  • Sound - Personalised playlists, listening to familiar tunes from the radio, CD's, YouTube, listening to cultural performances, or making music using various instruments. (Refer to the “Music resources” section for some music ideas).                                                          

Tips

  • It is important to understand your care recipient’s activity likes and dislikes and their personal history to plan appropriate activities for them.
  • Your care recipient should be provided with a choice of activities to participate in.
  • Participating in suitable activities can help a person with dementia to achieve purpose and pleasure, help to improve their mood, responses, memory function, increase social interaction, sleep, improve verbal and non-verbal communication and restore a sense of identity. Activities also play a significant part in increasing the person’s wellbeing and confidence which will decrease responsive behaviours or ill-being.
  • It is important that activities are suitable to the level of ability of the person with dementia. People with dementia should be encouraged to participate as independently as possible and be given the choice to participate or to watch others.
  •  Always talk to the person’s doctor before starting them on a new exercise program and ensure the program designed for them takes into account their current health and ability.
  • Alzheimer’s Australia SA, local council libraries or community organisations may be able to loan suitable cultural activities such as music, games, videos etc.
  • Cultural activity resources

  • For cultural activity information and ideas refer to the “Cultural activities, resources” section below.
  • For local community contact details refer to the “Links, Community Contacts” section of this app.

Resources

Generalist

  • Ceremonial performances including music, song and dance was in the past, and is still today, a very important part of Aboriginal life and customs.
  • Traditional Indigenous music varies across Australia.
  • Generally Indigenous music is mainly vocal, often with a singer or several singers of the same gender.
  • Accompaniments may include body percussion, paired sticks, boomerang clap sticks or the didjeridu (a famous Indigenous instrument which is an end-blown natural trumpet without finger holes).
  • Singing groups may include both men and women, although they are not as common.
  • Indigenous musicians have also adopted other music styles such as country and western and rock inspired styles.

Tips

  • Music is the most powerful universal language.
  • Music provides an external rhythm and can restore a person back to themselves, and to others, at least for a while.
  • People tend to remain contactable as musical beings on some level right up to the very end of life.
  • It is important to understand your care recipient’s music likes and dislikes and to provide them with their choice of music to listen to.
  • Create a personalised music playlist for your care recipient for their maximum benefit and enjoyment.
  • Provide opportunities for the person with dementia to watch live music performances.
  • Providing music a person relates to can have a wide range of benefits to the care recipient. Benefits may include; helping to improve their mood, responses, memory function, increase social interaction, improve verbal and non-verbal communication and restore a sense of identity.

Resources

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Australian

Chinese

Croatian

Dutch

Filipino

German

Greek

Hungarian

Indian

Italian

Malaysian

Maltese

Maori

Nepalese

New Zealander

Polish

South Korean

Spanish

Sri Lankan

Ukrainian

Vietnamese