Government funding for interpreter dementia training

A new study has won Federal Government funding to establish specialist dementia training for interpreters, in an effort to improve cognitive assessment for dementia of people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

 

The MINDSET Study, led by the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI), was awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership Project grant on 27 March 2021.

 

The study will also receive financial contributions from the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters, Dementia Australia, the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators, All Graduates Interpreting and Translating, Migrant and Refugee Health Partnership and the Sydney Local Health District.

 

Study chief investigator, NARI Director of Social Gerontology Associate Professor Bianca Brijnath, said previous research had found interpreters are servicing increasing numbers of people with dementia but have variable experience and knowledge of the disease.

 

“This resulted in inconsistencies in interpreting which reduced the validity of cognitive assessments, diminished clinician and patient satisfaction, and overburdened health services,” said Associate Professor Brijnath.

 

“Subsequently, interpreters themselves recognised the need for specialist training in dementia.”

 

With greater than 200 per cent projected growth in the proportion of older CALD Australians by 2056, there will be a rise in the number of non-English speaking people living with dementia.

 

“Many people from a CALD background speak English, but a very common symptom of dementia is aphasia - or loss of language,” says Associate Professor Brijnath. “The general rule of thumb is ‘last in first out’ so if English is your second, third or fourth language, you lose English before the language you might have learned as a little child.”

 

She said when people go for a cognitive assessment their English may have already deteriorated, so they rely on an interpreter who knows what they are doing to help communicate with the doctor. If the interpreter has poor knowledge of dementia, it can be a problem.

 

“For example, in many languages there is no word for dementia, or words that are used for dementia are taboo and stigmatising. This can cause a lot of confusion and make that whole consultation very difficult.”

 

The study will work with interpreters, clinicians, CALD people with dementia, and their carers to co-design, trial, and implement online training targeted at interpreters.

 

Training will familiarise interpreters with all aspects of dementia and its impact on cognitive and linguistic ability, explain the tools used to assess and diagnose dementia, and engage interpreters with effective interpreting strategies for cognitive assessments.

 

The study will concentrate on six key languages: Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Arabic, Greek and Italian. Once established and proven effective, it is expected the training will be available to any interpreter in Australia.

 

The training will ultimately sit on the National Accreditation Authority for Translators & Interpreters (NAATI) website and provide opportunity for every interpreter working with older CALD Australians to access training in interpreter mediated cognitive assessment for dementia.

 

Associate Professor Brijnath said the study outcomes will realise a key priority in the NHMRC’s National Institute of Dementia Research CALD Action Plan, which is to inform effective ways to train front-line staff on how culture influences dementia.

 

The study is a partnership between researchers from the National Ageing Research Institute, Melbourne Health, RMIT University, University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, Monash University and The University of Newcastle Melbourne.

 

30 March 2021.