Breaking down barriers for people living with dementia in culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Victoria

The term "dementia" is often met with stigma in culturally and linguistically diverse communities, which can lead to people living with dementia to feel socially isolated. Australian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS) in Victoria sought to support CALD seniors and their communities to gain more awareness about dementia and work towards multicultural communities becoming more inclusive for people living with dementia. 

AMCS’s Dementia-Friendly Communities Program was designed to help people with dementia who speak English as a second language to be able to participate more in their local community. In the first phase of the project, people living with dementia and their carers were engaged to take part in two co-designing workshops, where they shared their experiences and stories of life with dementia and helped to co-design actionable solutions to challenges they face in their communities.

Through the workshops, many cultural sensitivities faced by people living with dementia were revealed. Due to its negative connotations in some non-English languages, people diagnosed with dementia in ethnic communities can find it very difficult to accept their diagnosis and the term. It can make people living with dementia feel labelled in their communities, while the wider community may experience anxiety and fear about how they communicate with people living with dementia. 

Through the workshops, many participants confirmed that this is the point where their social isolation began. 

Dr Lara Jakica, Project Manager and Senior Project Coordinator for AMCS, said people living with dementia often experience other barriers in their communities. 

“Some of these barriers identified by our workshop participants included difficulties using public transportation, lack of knowledge about dementia-friendly activities that already exist in communities, and inadequate education about dementia in the general public,” she said.

In the second workshop, participants discussed a range of possible ideas for how to make their communities more accessible and inclusive for people living with dementia and to help remove some of the barriers they experience. Suggestions included culturally specific dementia education for families and local doctors, the formation of smaller senior clubs in various languages, and the provision of transportation to activities and events.

After the workshops were completed, AMCS shared the findings with many CALD communities through presentations in six different languages including Turkish, Italian and Polish. 

Dr Jakica said AMCS has received good feedback from participants who said these presentations were very informative.  

“Many people stated it was a rare chance to hear more about living with dementia in their own language.”

Are you interested in what this could look like in your community?

The first step is to become a Dementia Friend. Find out more at or call our National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500.