Dementia Support Australia (DSA) has commissioned the creation of picture cards that aim to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living with dementia.

DSA, a service led by HammondCare, created the cards with funding from the Federal Government. The cards aim to support those living with dementia in maintaining crucial links to carers, community and family as their verbal skills decline.

The culturally appropriate cards have been specifically designed to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and feature illustrations from Dagoman woman Samantha Campbell.

“The health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is strongly based on connection to Country, community, family, and culture,” said DSA Director, Associate Professor Colm Cunningham.

“These cards will provide the ability to communicate in a way that respects both the person and their culture, with families, staff in aged care services and our DSA consultants.”

First Nations people are three to five times more likely to experience dementia than non-Indigenous people and have earlier onset.

Currently, there are 58 cards divided into eight categories of People, Activities/Objects, Food/Drinks, Personal Care, Health, Feelings, Places, and Animals.

Dementia Support Australia cards by artist Samantha Campbell. Photo supplied by Hammond Care.

The cards display the English translation of the image and hold space for the translation in the language spoken by the person using the cards.

Head of Dementia Centre Services Marie Alford says the cards are a “starting point”.

“We’re hoping that as people start using them in their work and in their communication across Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, that they let us know what is missing,” she said.

“We see this as part one of an ongoing piece of work and project that is really driven by those First Nations communities in ensuring that we have resources that really meet their needs.”

Whilst being a talented illustrator, Campbell also has a background in Aboriginal health which has supported her role in the development of the cards.

“Being an Aboriginal audience, I had to make sure the pictures were culturally appropriate and relatable,” she said.

“When I illustrated the doctor, for example, I avoided drawing on stereotypes of a westernised doctor dressed in a white coat.”

“This is because some First Nations people may perceive white coats and hospitals as places where people go to when they’re sick and don’t return home. So, I illustrated someone in a casual shirt, to depict a ‘friendly bush doctor.’”

Campbell said she was “really proud” of how the 58 cards came together.

“Some of it came naturally, painting is easy for me … as was filtering things from an Aboriginal perspective,” she said.

“This is something that I’d love to keep doing and being involved in … It makes me not only be creative, but it helps people.”

Card packs are available to both carers and services on request and come in both colour and black-and-white versions.

By Rachael Knowles