Language barriers put more aggression in people with Dementia

Demographics and neuropsychiatric symptoms in immigrant and non-immigrant people with Dementia.

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A recent study by Edith Cowan University (ECU) and The Dementia Centre, HammondCare found that immigrants having Dementia are more aggressive than people born in a country where they lived. Researchers from this Institute described that this behavior is expected in Dementia depending on a person’s cultural background.

Researchers found differences between immigrants and non-immigrants living in aged care homes who got help from Dementia Support Australia (DSA). They discovered that immigrants were more aggressive, while non-immigrants were more likely to experience hallucinations or delusions.

DSA, a free, Australian Government-funded dementia behavior support program, has helped over 60,000 clients and 98 percent of aged care homes in every state and territory since 2016.

Immigrants and non-immigrants had behavioral and psychological signs (BPSD). However, immigrants show additional factors such as language barriers and cultural considerations.

Lead researcher Pelden Chejor said, “In Australia, over 400,000 people are living with dementia, a number projected to double by 2058; at least 54% of people living in residential aged care homes (RACHs) in 2019 – 2020 had a dementia diagnosis.”

Researchers noticed that immigrants, especially those who don’t speak English, had fewer hallucinations and lower levels of delusions and disinhibition as compared to non-immigrants. However, they experienced more agitation or aggression, which could be due to communication problems.

Chejor explained that “this increased aggression might stem from difficulties expressing themselves verbally. English-speaking immigrants didn’t show this difference, but cognitive decline can affect their ability to communicate in English, leading them to rely more on their native language.”

DSA Marie Alford, head of DSA, highlights the significance of Dementia individually by considering the cultural background, experiences, preferences, and daily habits when addressing behavioral and psychological symptoms.

Alford focuses on the importance of effective communication with dementia patients, getting to know them personally, including their language and cultural background. She highlighted that providing support tailored to the individual’s needs could often be more effective than depending on pharmacological intervention.

In conclusion, the study highlights the importance of language barriers in Dementia. Effective communication strategies help improve language needs and may help reduce aggression and enhance the quality of life in Dementia.

Journal reference:

  1. Chejor, P., Atee, M., Cain, P. et al. Comparing clinico-demographics and neuropsychiatric symptoms for immigrant and non-immigrant aged care residents living with Dementia: a retrospective cross-sectional study from an Australian dementia-specific support service. BMC Geriatrics. DOI: 10.1186/s12877-023-04447-3.

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