Strong Carers, Strong Communities

"Gotta be sit down and worked out together" using participatory action research to test an empowerment approach to addressing the needs of unpaid carers of older Aboriginal people

Investigators:  Ass Prof Dina LoGiudice, Prof Leon Flicker, Ass Prof Kate Smith, Ass Prof Dawn Bessarab, Prof David Atkinson, Ass Prof Melissa Lindeman, Prof Chris Etherton-Beer. Project Officers: Cath Josif, Ros Malay

This research project will involve working alongside remote Aboriginal communities using a Community based participatory action research approach (PAR). PAR is a "collaborative approach to research that equitably involves all partners in the research process and recognizes the unique strengths that each brings. PAR begins with a research topic of importance to the community, has the aim of combining knowledge with action and achieving social change to improve health outcomes and eliminate health disparities." WK Kellogg Foundation.This collaborative PAR approach will focus on community development, for the communities involved and in particular their caregivers to gain greater control over their lives, to improve their health and well-being and the key areas that are a priority for them.

  • Outcomes  assessed  will  include  caregiver  empowerment,  psychological  well-being,  service  utilisation, attendance, and health and other outcomes related to the key areas that the CBPAR communities identify as a priority.

The outcomes in the PAR communities will be compared to outcomes in control communities, who will be provided with only standard education programs in addition to generic regional programs.  The hypothesis central to this research is that collaborative and equitable (PAR) projects that facilitate empowerment lead to improved health outcomes, as compare d to education alone.

Cognitive Assesment and Dementia

Early quantitative studies completed by this team include the development of the first valid screening tool for dementia in Aboriginal   and Torres Strait Islander peoples which is now utilised around Australia (the Kimberley Indigenous Cognitive Assessment, KICA).   Utilising this tool the prevalence of dementia and associated risk factors were determined to be higher than in non Indigenous Australians.  Other conditions commonly seen in older people and associated risk factors are currently being explored, developing a suite of valid assessment tools for Aboriginal Australians aged over 45 years.

In 2013 a new research project will begin aimed at determining the effectiveness of empowerment programs at improving the health outcomes of Aboriginal community caregivers. Previous research by the team had identified that remote Aboriginal caregivers were struggling, and having difficulties in accessing necessary supports while caring for family members, impacting on their health and well-being.

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