Seven ground-breaking dementia research grants to support people living with dementia and their caregivers

Published on: March 4, 2021


The Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration (DCRC) is pleased to announce the successful applicants in the latest round of DCRC pilot grants.

Seven pilot projects will receive $75,000 each to conduct ground-breaking dementia research. Five of the seven projects are co-funded in partnership with the Dementia Australia Research Foundation.

The seven DCRC pilot grants have been awarded to Dr Linda Steele, Dr Deborah Brooks, Dr Leander Mitchell, Dr Kirsten Moore, Dr Suraj Samtani, Dr Sarah Wallace and Dr Melinda Jackson.

These grants are highly competitive and sought after in the research sector, and provide vital insights into reducing dementia risk, improving accurate and timely diagnoses and establishing treatment and care options for people who live with dementia.

In making this announcement, DCRC Directors, Professors Kaarin Anstey, Elizabeth Beattie and Henry Brodaty congratulate the recipients on their outstanding proposals and thank all applicants.

“Neglect and abuse of people living with dementia is a systemic problem in residential aged care,” said Dr Linda Steele, senior lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney.

“Those affected have been unable to access justice, healing and closure through the courts and it inflicts significant harm on survivors, care partners and the broader dementia community.”

“My research project explores the need to redress the wrongs of past neglect and abuse beyond individual court action.

“For example, through compensation and psychosocial support, memorials, national apologies and community education. This action can then facilitate justice, healing and enhanced well-being for survivors, as well as protections for future aged care and legal systems.”



Dr Deborah Brooks is a Project Coordinator at the Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration, Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and her research explores the Residential Care Transition Module (RCTM).

“Many people with dementia eventually move into residential care but making this decision and coping with admission processes can be distressing. Formal supports to help families cope during this transition are lacking, so this study aims to test delivery of a telephone/video counselling intervention to reduce stress for family carers.”

The RCTM consists of six telephone or video-link counselling sessions delivered to family carers over 12 weeks by a trained health or social care professional. It includes education about dementia and residential care facilities, dementia-specific grief counselling, stress reduction techniques, and referral to support networks.

Dr Leander Mitchell from The University of Queensland will use the $75,000 funding to develop tools to measure depression and anxiety in people living with dementia in the Torres Strait.

“Rates of dementia are almost three times higher in Torres Strait communities than the wider population and rates of depression and anxiety are also higher in First Nations populations,” Dr Mitchell said.

“Thinking and memory problems can be present in all of these conditions but without accurate information, it can be difficult to work out whether symptoms are due to dementia or a psychological disorder.

“These tools have to be acceptable to Torres Strait people and also measure depression and anxiety accurately – doctors and health workers can then use these tools when assessing someone with thinking and memory problems to help them work out if the person has dementia or a psychological disorder and therefore what treatment is needed.”


Dr Kirsten Moore is a senior research fellow in the Melbourne Ageing Research Collaboration at the National Ageing Research Institute. Dr Moore’s study explores the burden, chronic stress and often grief that comes with caring for a family member or friend living with dementia.

“While caring for someone living with dementia is often portrayed negatively, with physical and mental health impacts associated with caring, this is not the full picture. This study will develop a resource that aims to provide a more balanced view of the experience of caring.

“We will examine the creative ways of managing daily stressors and challenges that will go some way toward countering overly negative portrayals of caring for someone living with dementia.”


Dr Suraj Samtani is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) and his project focuses on working together with people living with cognitive impairments and their care partners to write a social skills training manual specifically designed for older adults living with dementia.

“Many older adults with cognitive impairment have difficulties with recognising emotions and reacting in a socially appropriate way. Most treatments developed for dementia focus on improving memory and language. So far, there is no treatment that helps people recover or maintain social skills as their cognitive abilities decline.

“My hope is that people living with cognitive impairments can reconnect with others and experience the joy of socialising once again. One person living with dementia said to me: “I worry that other people will laugh at me and say I don’t say things that make sense or I repeat myself.”

Dr Melinda Jackson is a Senior Lecturer and Sleep Psychologist at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, Monash University and her project examines sleep disturbance in both the care giver and the person living with dementia.

“Poor sleep is experienced by two thirds of caregivers and is associated with depression and lower quality of life.

“Over 200,000 Australians provide informal assistance and caregiving to people with dementia. Improving sleep and mood of caregivers is an important step towards increasing their overall quality of life and improving their experience with caring for the person with dementia.”



“The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has exposed shocking stories of poor care, abuse, and neglect,” said Dr Sarah Wallace, speech pathologist and NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow at The University of Queensland.

“This is very concerning for people with dementia, as they are at greater risk of abuse and may also have trouble communicating that something is wrong.

“More than half of people who receive aged care services have dementia, so we need to find the best ways to help people with dementia to provide feedback, make complaints, and have conversations about their care.

My project will work in partnership with people with dementia, their families, carers and health professionals to design a set of free resources to engage in important conversations about their care and support.”

Funded by the Australian government, the DCRC’s primary research foci within the broader topic of dementia research are prevention, assessment and diagnosis, intervention and treatment, living with dementia and care, with a particular investment in translation of knowledge into care and practice.

The DCRC gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Dementia Australia Research Foundation Scientific Panel in reviewing the applications and awarding the grants. Further information about the Foundation including previous grant rounds and outcomes can be found at:

To get in touch with any of the grant recipients, please contact Alex McTavish, Media Communications Coordinator at DCRC: or 0406 858 882.