We have a common saying in Chinese culture: Bad things that happen in the family, stay in the family. Five years ago, I started noticing changes in my grandma’s behaviour. She was diagnosed with dementia and this was just the beginning of her journey.
Little did I know that I would end up supporting families living with dementia in Hong Kong at a community health centre. I’ve brought this experience to the UK to work as a Clinics Admiral Nurse at charity Dementia UK. I’m delivering a first-of-its-kind Clinics service for families with dementia from the London Chinese communities in partnership with the Chinese Welfare Trust.
- The role of the nurse in screening patients for dementia
- Assessing dementia
- The fix for social care that never was
As I can speak Cantonese and Mandarin fluently, I communicate with families from this community and provide tailored clinical advice and emotional support.
It is estimated that there are more than 25,000 people currently living with dementia from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups, which includes the Chinese community in England and Wales. This is expected to exceed 172,000 people by 2051.
According to research findings, there is a strong sentiment in the Chinese community around both needing and wanting professional medical support, but being reluctant to seek it, if it comes at the cost of being ‘diminished’ as a person. This is either through shame in the family or through the navigation of the health and social care system.
Moreover, in our culture, younger members of the family are often expected to look after their elderly relatives.
This is even more important as dementia is a huge and growing health crisis; the estimated number of people living with the condition in the UK is 944,000. This number is set to increase to 1.1m by 2030. Almost all of us will know someone affected, whether it’s a family member or a friend. But there simply aren’t enough Admiral Nurses to reach every family that needs support. With gaps in health and social care services, barriers that the Chinese community face to accessing support, and the stigma around dementia, it is vital that we begin to educate and raise awareness among health and social care professionals, so they can begin to address these issues.
Information about dementia and the services available need to be easily accessible and translated into different languages so that we reach these families and break down the stigma which leads to isolation. For now, Admiral Nurses like me with the support of Dementia UK, are uniquely placed to provide life-changing guidance and inspire change within the care system.
My grandma remains at the forefront of my mind every day. No person or family should have to face a diagnosis of dementia alone; we should walk through the change together and tackle the stigma around dementia in the Chinese community so that all families get the support they need.