Pākehā and non-Māori dementia clinicians don't understand the importance of spirituality in how they care for Māori, says a University of Auckland Professor.
Makarena Dudley, lead researcher of the Kaumātuatanga o te Toro project, said clinicians need to hold sessions which were wairua (spirituality) enhancing.
"Māori health and wellbeing actually lies in a postive Māori identity, and this fits well with that."
Phase one of the Kaumātuatanga o te Toro project held focus groups and wānanga.
More than 200 kuia, kaumātua and their whānau participated, looking at mate wareware, or dementia, from a Māori perspective.
The project is now onto its second phase, looking for new treatment options that blend western medicine and traditional cultural practices.
Prof Dudley said Māori believed these practices could help slow the progression of dementia.
"That is in speaking the reo, in singing waiata, in taking part in kapa haka, even in karakia.
"Even just actually being on the marae was seen to be as a protective factor against mate wareware."
One major finding of the research was patient care must include a Te ao Māori approach to create a comfortable environment for Māori and their caregivers.
Whānau want to keep their loved ones at home for as long as possible, but a lack of resources puts pressure on families, Prof Dudley said.
"The almost natural course for whānau is to come together, to pool their resources to take care of the person with dementia."
However, Prof Dudley said there was a gap in education around dementia within the Māori community, which urgently needed to be addressed to ease fears kaumātua were having.
Prof Dudley will present the research project 'Kaumātuatanga o Te Roro: A Māori Approach to the Treatment and Management of Dementia' to the National Kaumātua Service Providers Conference in New Plymouth next week.