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Tailoring aged care to cultural background

Author: Rob Gill
13 August 2015
  • Ansell Strategic's Rob Hankins (left) with the ACU research team Dr Zhu Chen, Anthea Green, IPPE Deputy Director Prof. Alexander Yeung and Prof Lazar Stankov

Researchers at the Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) Sydney-based Institute for Positive Psychology and Education (IPPE) are conducting a pilot study into the benefits of aged care tailored to the needs of people from different cultural backgrounds.

The study stems from the review earlier this year by the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia (FECCA) of research on older people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

The FECCA review confirmed the increasing cultural diversification of Australia’s rapidly growing older population. It reviewed research into the incidence of mental health issues, of caring and carers, and the preferences of different CALD populations in their approach to ageing.

It noted that the emphasis on community and Consumer Directed Care (CDC) in aged care reform posed a challenge in navigating the system for older people with little or no experience of formal aged care services. The review said it was even more difficult for those with limited English and different cultural perspectives of ageing.

The ACU pilot is being conducted with seed funding from specialist aged care consultants Ansell Strategic. It involves four discrete ethnic groups, those of Dutch background in Melbourne, and members of the Greek, Italian and Chinese communities in Sydney.

Professor Lazar Stankov is one of the ACU researchers. He says that involving as many respondents as possible from ethnic groups will be important in comparing the wellbeing of aged care residents in ethno-specific facilities with those in mainstream aged care – finding what makes the difference.

Professor Stankov believes measuring the wellbeing of a diversity of ethnic groups in aged care is a potentially rich vein running through the heart of multicultural Australia. He and fellow researchers Anthea Green and Dr Zhu Chen think that the pilot will show the need for a far more extensive study.

Ms Green, a director of Melbourne’s Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre and a former CEO of Aquarius Aged Care, said individual CALD groups were exploring the establishment of their own culturally aligned aged care facilities.

Palliative Care Australia (PCA) has been investigating the understanding of end of life care among Greek and Korean community groups and intends to establish a forum to engage with these communities. Palliative Care Victoria and the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria (ECCV) have also been highly active in this area.

Ms Green said different ethnologies have individual approaches to end of life care, their response being the establishment of culturally diverse aged care facilities.

“People are entering aged care far later in life, often with greater complications due to multiple comorbidities. There is much anecdotal evidence that points to people in this situation reverting to their primary language and culture.

“The FECCA review recommended that an evaluation of CDC programs should investigate whether and how they meet the specific needs of older people from CALD backgrounds.

“Our pilot study aims to establish the basis for comparison of the quality of service offered by ethno-specific and mainstream facilities. FECCA revealed that research into this area has been sporadic.”

The FECCA review also highlighted a lack of research into smaller CALD population groups, older people from new and emerging communities and from a refugee background, those who arrive in Australia at an older age and those from CALD backgrounds living outside major population areas.

Ms Green said that bigger providers of residential aged care would be better equipped to tailor procedures and client preferences around issues important to CALD populations, key indicators of appropriate care like language, food and religion.

“There is demonstrated value in the size and scale of providers,” she said.

“But, regardless of ethnicity, one can never dismiss the impact of a loving community on the quality of aged care.”

CALD community members who wish to take part in the ACU pilot should contact Dr Zhu Chen.

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