National | Health

Mātauranga Māori could help to manage dementia

Dr Margaret Dudley, from the University of Auckland, is leading a research project to try and find a treatment for Māori with dementia.

Key researchers from other universities have been involved in this initiative where they help seven hui across the county and spoke to over 250 kaumātua about this disease.

The research team found that cultural identity could be the answer to treating this dementia.

Piripi Daniels (Hokianga, Waikato) says its an initiative that has found a way forward for Māori families dealing with dementia.

"Its to revive their mind and thoughts through Māori activities."

“I believe cultural identity engagement into Māori identity is going to be a positive factor in terms of slowing down the progress of dementia or even perhaps in preventing the onset of dementia,” adds Dr Dudley.

She also says this research was conducted to help her and her team to create a tool that will help treat dementia.

“Currently the tools that are being used for that diagnosis have been imported from western countries and so we wanted to develop our own diagnostic tool but we wanted to use the information, the mātauranga from our kuia, kaumatua in order to form that tool.”

Dr Dudley also believes cultural activities can trigger elements of memory for elders who are living with this disease.

“A waiata, a karakia, even kapahaka and some people getting in the waka and going for a paddle. All those types of Māori activity enhance that person’s ability to function.”

Throughout the meeting process, researchers have found that there is a poor understanding round dementia for Māori families.

“There’s a huge lack of information and so Māori may not know about it, that’s because they've not been told about it.”

Dudley’s team gained these insights through speaking with more than 250 kaumātua

“So the conclusion that we came to was that cultural identity and in this case Māori identity is healthy.”

Daniels adds, “Go back to the marae, go back to health providers from that they will be able to connect to their wider family members."

Dr Dudley and her team will continue their work on creating free tools and accessible information for Māori families dealing with dementia