Dementia in Canada’s Indigenous populations is an emerging health issue. Given the legacy of colonialism, racism and marginalization, Indigenous people living with dementia face both complex health issues and barriers to access care and support. Whilst there is a growing body of literature to help us understand dementia within Indigenous communities, there is much that remains unknown.
Indigenous researchers in Canada and elsewhere have begun to document the prevalence and causes of dementia, the experiences of people living with dementia and culturally appropriate support and care. Some studies seem to suggest that rates of dementia are increasing more rapidly among Indigenous people compared to others and that the age of onset may be earlier (Jacklin and Walker, 2012). However, this data remains uncertain given dementia often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed due to the lack of awareness, limited or no access to specialist services and an absence of culturally appropriate assessment tools. Sometimes people do not trust the western health care system. Other studies have found that, culturally, some people believe that dementia is a normal part of aging or being closer to the spirit world, or a diagnosis will not make any difference in terms of support from their family and community. Importantly, people are also fearful of the embarrassment and stigma associated with dementia.