Dementia care

  • Research the client/resident’s Italian history so it can be used in personal programs and other programs developed by the Recreation and Activities officer.
  • Ensure the Italian language is heard spoken – if no language is known by staff then access Italian radio, TV, movies and music.
  • Refer to activites section.
  • Use language aids such as language wall charts, language pocket guides, picture cards, bilingual staff, aged care terms glossary and signage.
  • Limited knowledge of Dementia is held by the community so circulating information in English and Italian is essential.
  • Diagnosis is often made at later stages of Dementia therefore those living with Dementia are likely to use services at a very late stage so assistance needed will be high.
  • A spouse will continue to care for the partner with Dementia long past their ability to do so because of perceived duty to do so.
  • The family is expected to provide care for the person living with Dementia.
  • The family doctor is often the first point of referral and assessment.

It is useful to know the personal and migration history of the person living with Dementia so that effective programs can be developed. Some Italians might have experienced the effects of war, have been a refugee from for example Istria, suffered forced separation from family and a host of other experiences around loss and trauma.  Are they religious? Were they part of a large family, the first born, the youngest? What jobs were held or professions learned?What are their likes and dislikes?Awareness of this history will enable care staff to be informed enough to develop sensitive practices.  Activities based around this knowledge could enable the client to be engaged meaningfully.

It is important for senior Italians to hear the Italian language spoken around them. If no knowledge of Italian is held by care staff then it is useful to play Italian movies, CDs, live music and radio.  Bringing the Italian community in to your facility for Italian themed events and celebrations and regular gatherings is one way to immerse your client in Italian language and cultural pass times. Taking a client out to a social group or friendship visit could be an option for inclusion in a community care plan.

Language for communication with the client/resident will be essential. Italian could be learned by care staff formally or informally. Italian wall charts, picture and word cards or language pocket guides could be used for communication. Sometimes though, the client will revert to the earliest language learnt within the family and this could be a dialect. Unfortunately not all dialects are similar so residents and clients speaking different dialects might not understand each other. It could be a good idea to use the knowledge of any staff that speak a dialect or the Italian language. But most Italians will be familiar with classic, folk and pop songs of their youth.

The scope around knowledge of Dementia and it’s various symptoms are not widely known by the Italian community, although this is slowly changing. Knowledge and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are not widely known and how some symptoms are similar to those of Dementia. Circulating material, fact sheets and brochures regarding Dementia in Italian and English will help families to become better informed.

The early symptoms of Dementia might not be detected or identified by even the children of the Dementia patient – thinking that “it’s just mum” or a natural part of ageing. Most families would tend to rely on the  family doctor for the earliest diagnosis. The doctor might not be able to make an early diagnosis if s/he is not given all the details of the patient’s behaviour. Because older Italians tend to hold the doctor in high esteem, they might think that it is a waste of the doctor’s time if they bother her/him with details of the patient’s behaviour and symptoms. Diagnosis is often made at the later stages of Dementia.

Service uptake is usually at a later stage of the development of Dementia so the assistance sought will be at the higher needs level. Children do assist their parents with Dementia and this also contributes to the higher numbers of Italian clients having higher level service needs.

A spouse will continue to care for their partner with dementia long past their ability to do so, mainly because of their perceived duty to do so. Dementia in the family could elicit feelings of shame from its members, although this is changing as there is growing acceptance of dementia as a specific disease and not a symptom of a feeble minded person.

Provide information in Italian & English so everyone in the family can read about causes, treatment, early detection and intervention. Include family in care plan development so that a more effective plan is devised and is likely to be implemented.

Italian spouse carer expectations. This you tube shows the expectations that Italian carers have of themselves.

Read the story, below, of Iole Baitieri; the experience of an Italian Australian wife caring for her husband. Read about  her level of knowledge of dementia and just how long it was before she asked for assistance. Also read about the kind of assistance that she conceded to accept.

Iole Baitieri dementia story

Read about the attitudes of the Italian Australian community regarding dementia and the care delivered to their family members.

Italian Community and dementia care

The Italian memory box is a resource that can be created by families and their loved one who have dementia. The directions contain good suggestions on how to develop a box of items that may trigger someone’s memory and that could initiate conversations.

Creating a memory box for Italians

Memory Box contents_expanded list

Italian men and womens box picture

Case study – Italians with Dementia