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Improving the lives of children and Aboriginal people living with dementia focus of two new national research projects

Research | Newsroom

Two Tasmanian-led national research projects have received Federal funding to improve treatment and care of children with dementia, and Aboriginal people with dementia.

Associate Professors Lyn Goldberg and Tony Cook from the University’s Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre were successful in the latest round of funding from the Medical Research Future Fund.

Associate Professor Lyn Goldberg received $989, 089 to lead a study to co-develop with Aboriginal Australian Elders new web-based knowledge to help improve healthcare for Aboriginal people with dementia.

Associate Professor Tony Cook was awarded $599, 977 to develop new approaches for the treatment and care of children with dementia.

Associate Professor Cook will work with colleagues from Menzies Institute for Medical Research, the Tasmanian School of Medicine, Tasmanian Health Service and Murdoch University in Perth, WA to develop a new type of drug which addresses current limitations of traditional drugs, aiming to improve the care of children with dementia.

“Many genetic diseases that cause childhood dementia involve accumulation of specific fat molecules within brain cells, causing them to become dysfunctional and die,” Associate Professor Cook said.

“Inhibiting production of these fat molecules using traditional drugs has shown promise for these conditions in the laboratory, but these drugs have limitations and side effects that mean they are unsuitable as a therapy.

“We will develop a new type of drug that overcomes these limitations and improve care of children with dementia.”

Dr Kris Elvidge, Childhood Dementia Initiative Head of Research, congratulated Associate Professor Cook on his funding success.

“Around 100 babies are born every year in Australia with a genetic condition that causes childhood dementia, and 75% of children with dementia will die before they turn 18,” Dr Elvidge said.

“Effective treatments and cures are desperately needed.”

Associate Professor Goldberg said the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety emphasised the need for older Aboriginal people to receive culturally respectful, safe and trauma-informed care.

“While older Aboriginal people prefer aged care provided by Aboriginal services, the capacity of existing services is limited,” Associate Professor Goldberg said.

“Older Aboriginal people who can access mainstream home, community, or residential care receive it primarily from non-Aboriginal staff.

“While we wait for the Aboriginal community-controlled sector to be adequately resourced and supported, we must educate non-Aboriginal healthcare providers about culturally respectful and safe care for Aboriginal people with dementia and change the conversation from a focus on deficit to one on strength, resilience, and holistic approaches.

“In this project, Aboriginal Australian Elders in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and WA will partner with the research team to co-create, co-deliver, and assist in measuring the impact of new web-based knowledge that has practical implications for improving health care for Aboriginal people with dementia.”