Clinical neuropsychologist Matthew Staios is well known for his tireless spirit and efforts to hold on to his Greek Australian identity.

A little over a year ago he rode his bicycle for days raising funds for dementia awareness and last Saturday he and his cousin Anna Timou held a pop-up fundraiser at On the Mend shoe store in Fitzroy to support the Greek wildfire victims.

The two closed the shop at 2.00pm and reopened it at 2.30pm as a pop-up cafe, serving Greek coffee until 5.00pm to raise funds for the Hellenic Red Cross foundation.

Matt Staios, pictured top left next to Greek Community President, Bill Papastergiadis, and (L-R) federal MP Maria Vamvakinou, Anna Timou and Former Mayor for the City of Yarra, Phillip Vlahogiannis.

Many locals and Melbourne Greeks attended the event, including leading community members like Maria Vamvakinou MP and President of the Greek Community of Melbourne, Bill Papastergiadis.

“Our little fundraiser on Saturday went really well, we raised $1,250 which is awesome for a local event; about 50 people came by,” Staios told Neos Kosmos. “It was fun, quite the Fitzroy hipster vibe; us with the briki and the little gas-burners.

“Quite a few saw the event pop-up on Facebook and wanted to support the cause, not necessarily Greek. One of my friends is Scottish and her mum sent money from home. It’s little things like that that make a difference,” he added.

Having offered so much to his community, it was only a matter of time until his efforts were recognised.

Fronditha Care has awarded him the inaugural Anna Matthews OAM Scholarship to advance his research into dementia diagnostic tests for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australians.

The $10,000 scholarship will help Staios create and adapt a range of tests to detect dementia and avoid misdiagnosis in CALD communities. This boost will enable him to purchase test materials, employ a research assistant and attend conferences and intensive training in Greece.

Currently completing his research at Monash University, Staios is creating and adapting a range of tests to detect dementia in CALD Australians.

He says measures and tests currently in use are likely to result in misdiagnosis, and has seen this first hand with the elderly Greek community.

“Greek Australian elderly have difficulties answering the questions in the diagnostic tests because of their language and cultural barriers,” he continued.

“That’s why it’s so important to create qualitative tests that are adaptable to more cultures and languages, so we don’t run the risk of people being misdiagnosed with dementia and not be given the right treatment options.

(L-R) Mathew Staios and Soula Cargakis (Anna Matthews’ daughter with Zoe Angeli and George Lekakis AO.

“After banging on so many doors the last few years to highlight the misdiagnosis issue – not just in the Greek community but other communities – Mr Lekakis at Fronditha saw the real value in my research and the importance of continuing to look into this under-resourced area,” Staios said.

Fronditha Care CEO George Lekakis AO hopes to see dementia patients’ wellbeing and treatment plans improve thanks to Staios’ research.

“Dementia is an incurable disease and is life-changing for the patient and their loved ones,” Mr Lekakis said. “Treatment options are limited and earlier diagnosis or more tailored diagnostic tools will help immensely.”

The Anna Matthews OAM Scholarship was introduced to encourage and assist research that contributes to the wellbeing and care of ageing adults from a CALD background.
The scholarship also honours the memory of the late Anna Matthews OAM, a Greek migrant and Fronditha Care pioneer who was instrumental in campaigning for specialised aged care in Australia.

“I had the opportunity to meet Ms Cargakis, Anna Matthews’ daughter, who supplied the funds for the scholarship. She took me through her mother’s Alzheimers struggles and how the language barrier affected the testing process,” Mr Staios explained.

“Her work was to make sure ageing multicultural citizens were able to be understood and enjoy culturally and linguistically appropriate care, which is more than perfectly aligned with my cause. It takes time for momentum to build up but we need to stay connected and keep pushing through for each other.”