Reframing Dementia: How to promote rights and strengths-based care for people living with dementia and their carers


  • Georgia Hing University of Sydney


Life Course Perspective, Social Work, Ageism, Dementia, CALD


By using a life course approach, this article seeks to discuss and analyse the impact on a carer when their older loved one experiences cognitive changes such as dementia, and the specific implications in case for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. In Western contexts such as Australia, dementia is often understood through a biomedical lens and deficit-based frameworks. These dominant understandings can maintain ageist attitudes that construct older people and those with dementia as a social policy burden. This is further amplified for people from non-dominant cultures. This paper examines the marketisation of aged care in Australia and phenomena of ambiguous loss in identifying a range of issues for carers, including the specific experiences and challenges for culturally and linguistically diverse people. Finally, it discusses implications for critical social work practice and argues for radical change at structural and organisational levels. It proposes that a reframing of dementia as a shared social experience along with strengths-based and relational practice are key to creating more meaningful counter narratives that foster a sense of agency and empowerment for carers and people with dementia.


Arruda, E. H., & Paun, O. (2017). Dementia caregiver grief and bereavement: An integrative review, Western Journal of Nursing Research, 39, 825–851.

Bastos, J.L., Harnois, C.E., & Paradies, Y.C. (2018). Health care barriers, racism, and intersectionality in Australia, Social Science & Medicine (1982), 199, 209–218.

Boughtwood, D.L., Adams, J., Shanley, C., Santalucia, Y., & Kyriazopoulos, H. (2011). Experiences and perceptions of culturally and linguistically diverse family carers of people with dementia, American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias, 26(4), 290-297.

Caldwell, L., Low, L-F., & Brodaty, H. (2014). Caregivers’ experience of the decision-making process for placing a person with dementia into a nursing home: comparing caregivers from Chinese ethnic minority with those from English-speaking backgrounds. International Psychogeriatrics, 26(3), 413-424.

Carpentier, N., Bernard, P., Grenier, A., & Guberman, N. (2010). Using the life course perspective to study the entry into the illness trajectory: The perspective of caregivers of people with Alzheimer's disease, Social Science & Medicine, 70, 1501-1508.

Dementia Australia. (2022, July). Dementia statistics,

Dementia Australia. (n.d.). What is dementia?.

Duffy, F. (2017). A Social work perspective on how ageist language, discourses and understandings negatively frame older people and why taking a critical social work stance is essential, British Journal of Social Work, 47, 2068-2085.

Dupuis, S. (2002). Understanding ambiguous loss in the context of dementia care. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 37(2). 93-115.

Fitzpatrick, K., & Grace, M. (2019) Dementia patients’ transition to residential aged care: carers’ and social workers’ experiences, Australian Social Work, 72(3), 287-298.

Gilbert, A.S., Antoniades, J., Croy, S., Thodis, A., Adams, J., Goeman, D., Browning, C., Kent, M., Ellis, K., & Brijnath, B. (2022). The experience of structural burden for culturally and linguistically diverse family carers of people living with dementia in Australia, Health and Social Care in the Community, 1-12.

Gillies, B. (2011). Continuity and loss: The carer’s journey through dementia, Dementia, 11(5), 657-676.

Henderson J., & Willis, E. (2020). The Marketisation of Aged Care: The Impact of Aged Care Reform in Australia. In Collyer, F, & Willis, K (Eds), Navigating Private and Public Healthcare. Palgrave Macmillan (pp. 249-267).

Hutchison, E.D. (2019). An update on the relevance of the life course perspective for social work, Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 100(4), 351-366.

Koehn, S., Neysmith, S., Kobayashi, K., & Khamisa, H. (2013). Revealing the shape of knowledge using an intersectionality lens: results of a scoping review on the health and health care of ethnocultural minority older adults, Ageing and Society, 33(3), 437–464.

Macdonald, G., & Mears, J. (2019). Dementia As Social Experience. Routledge.

McGovern, J. (2015). Living better with dementia: strengths-based social work practice and dementia care, Social Work in Health Care, 54, 408-421.

Nathanson, A., & Rogers, M. (2021). When ambiguous loss becomes ambiguous grief: clinical work with bereaved dementia caregivers, Health & Social Work, 2021, 45(4), 268-275.

Phillips, R. (2018). Emancipatory social work with older people: challenging students to overcome the limitations of ageism and institutional oppression, Critical Engagements in Aging and Care, 1(001), 1-23.

Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety [Aged Care Royal Commission] (2019). Interim Report: Neglect.

Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety [Aged Care Royal Commission] (2021). Final Report – Executive Summary.

Shanley, C., Boughtwood, D., Adams, J., Santalucia, Y., Kyriazopoulos, H., Pond, D., & Rowland, J. (2012). A qualitative study into the use of formal services for dementia by carers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, BMC Health Services Research, 12 (1), 1-11.

Tipping, S. A., & Whiteside, M. (2015). Language reversion among people with dementia from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds: the family experience, Australian Social Work, 68(2), 184-197,






Undergraduate and Post graduate Student papers