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A comparison of verbal communication and psychiatric medication use by Greek and Italian residents with dementia in Australian ethno-specific and mainstream aged care facilities

  • Susannah J. Runci (a1), Barbara J. Eppingstall (a1) and Daniel W. O'Connor (a1)

Background: Older migrants with dementia and limited English language proficiency in residential care may have unmet needs for social interaction. This project compared verbal communication and prescribed psychiatric medication of Greek and Italian residents with dementia in ethno-specific and mainstream residential care.

Methods: Participants were 82 older Australians of Greek or Italian background who had been diagnosed with dementia and were residing in mainstream or ethno-specific care. Residents were observed and their language use was recorded. An assessment of cognitive impairment was conducted. A structured interview was held with a family member and a staff member.

Results: The observed rate of resident-to-resident communication was higher in the ethno-specific facilities. Staff-to-resident interaction rate did not differ between the facility types. Residents in ethno-specific care were prescribed antipsychotics at a significantly lower rate.

Conclusions: Residents with dementia and limited English language proficiency in mainstream care would benefit from greater opportunities to interact with peers in their own language. Prescribed medication should be monitored to ensure that these residents are not misinterpreted as “disruptive,” or are not actually more agitated due to difficulty in communicating their needs.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: Dr. Susannah J. Runci, Aged Mental Health Research Unit, Kingston Centre, Monash University, Warrigal Rd., Cheltenham VIC 3192, Australia. Phone: +61-3-92651700; Fax: +61-3-92651711. Email:
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International Psychogeriatrics
  • ISSN: 1041-6102
  • EISSN: 1741-203X
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