Diversity & Equality in Health and Care Open Access

  • ISSN: 2049-5471
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South Asian and white older people and dementia: a qualitative study of knowledge and attitudes

Sara Turner, Alison Christie, Emma Haworth

Despite the increasing number of older people from minority ethnic groups, there is little published research on their understanding of dementia. Work which does exist suggests that South Asian older people, compared with older people from the white majority population, may have different views about what constitutes a mental illness, who it is appropriate to consult about mental illness, and willingness to access and accept services. With the change in the age structure of the population and changes in intergenerational relationships, it is important to identify what barriers might exist to South Asian older people choosing to access care. This study aimed to discover whether there were differences in views about the nature, causes and treatments for dementia, and who participants believed should provide care. Ninety-six South Asian and 96 white older people (age range 58–85 years) were interviewed using a semi-structured approach. A thematic analysis, drawing on the procedure of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis revealed a number of themes, which were then coded into NVivo software in order to conduct a content analysis. The Z test for difference in proportions was then used to assess the significance of differences found between the two groups from the content analysis. These combined analyses revealed that South Asian older people had much less specific knowledge about dementia and were much more likely to see it as part of the normal ageing process. Possibly as a consequence, they were less likely to think that there were treatments available. More South Asian than white older people thought that care should be provided by family or friends. White older people perceived family and friends as the first choice but thought that the state should also provide care. This study supports the need to acknowledge culture when considering access to care, and also highlights the need to provide more information to South Asian older people and their families about dementia and available treatments and services.