Better Care For Dementia Patients (2011)

23 Jun 2009

Better care for dementia patients

Melinda Kopanakis

With Australia’s ageing population, diseases like dementia are on the rise. Researchers from The University of Queensland are at the forefront of research dealing with a range of dementia-related issues thanks to recent funding from the National Health and Medical Research Centre.

Associate Professor Nancy Pachana from UQ’s School of Psychology has received $547,250 from the NHMRC Dementia Research Grants Program to develop a proven method to help the Office of the Adult Guardian (OAG) determine financial capacity in people with dementia, particularly where there are allegations of fiscal abuse.

According to Associate Professor Pachana, deciding which if any aspects of their financial affairs a person with dementia or suspected dementia can responsibly manage is a difficult process for health and legal professionals as well as for guardianship boards and tribunals.

“This process is often stressful for the older person, and having family members manage the older person’s assets may result in family conflict. While there is a small amount of overseas research examining this issue, no comprehensive and validated method exists internationally or in Australia to determine competency in this context.”

Associate Professor Pachana’s research aims to trial an improved means of assessing older adults who are the subject of investigation by the OAG.

“We will test a methodology for assessing the capacity of individuals to manage their own financial affairs where dementia is an issue,” she said.

This method involves the use of a number of reliable and well-validated instruments measuring the older person’s mental state, anxiety levels, depression, and social vulnerability combined with an interview exploring the personal circumstances of the older adult in relation to their financial affairs.

Associate Professor Pachana said that while most of the research will be conducted in SE Qld, an important component of the project is its extension to rural and regional areas throughout Queensland.

“This is particularly important as specialist advice to the OAG is often harder to access in less populated areas in the State.”

“As a result of this research, we will be able to ascertain the viability and utility of this assessment method, improve the method as per the data gathered, and ultimately seek future funding to trial the methods as across multiple jurisdictions.”

The outcomes of the research will ultimately aid health and legal professionals, guardianship boards and tribunals, as well as people with dementia and their family members, she said.

The project team is comprised of Associate Professor Pachana, Professor Jill Wilson and Associate Professor Cheryl Tilse from UQ’s School of Social Work and Human Services, and Associate Professor Gerard Byrne from UQ’s School of Medicine.

Dr Pachana, along with Associate Professor Byrne, also coordinates The Ageing Mind Initiative, a new clinical ageing group at The University of Queensland. To find out more visit