Helping people from minority ethnic backgrounds access services

MTC Dementia coverMany people in the UK are coming forward for early diagnosis of dementia, speaking out about their lives and showing that, with the right support, it is possible to live well with dementia.

However, figures show that people from minority ethnic backgrounds still tend to access dementia services much later than the majority White  population.

Dr Naaheed Mukadam, Dr Claudia Cooper, Professor Gill Livingston and colleagues at University College London set out to understand why this is the case. They interviewed family carers to find out what influenced the timing of when they sought help for their relative’s dementia. Their sample included men and women from seven different self-reported ethnicities, including ‘black’, ‘white’, South Asian and Chinese.

Despite the fact that most relatives noticed memory problems, the researchers found that those from minority ethnicities delayed seeking help until they ran into severe difficulties. Some relatives attributed early problems to other causes or found it hard to persuade the person to visit the doctor.

Sometimes the wider family didn’t agree with them seeking outside help, or enabled or expected them to cope without help.

Help-seeking tended to be precipitated by physical illness, risk, or difficulty managing confused or distressed behaviour. Minority ethnic carers did not always find the diagnosis itself helpful but did find specialist services beneficial in providing advice, drug treatment and support.

The study has helped to push service providers to make greater efforts to raise awareness of dementia in minority ethnic populations, for example through culturally specific ‘roadshows’, and to tailor their services, such as Alzheimer’s Society’s Information Programme for South Asian Families.

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