The benefits of ethno-specific aged care on the wellbeing of older people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds will be measured in a new study that aims to guide the future development of services.
One in five people aged over 65 in Australia were born in a non-English speaking country, which is predicted to increase to one in three by 2021, Census figures show.
But a review released earlier this year by the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA) suggested that aged care providers and policy makers were working with a limited understanding of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) seniors. Senior from CALD backgrounds often had higher levels of disadvantage and other risk factors that could affect their ageing experience in Australia, the review found. The ability to maintain language and culture in residential care was seen as vital for their wellbeing.
The researchers behind the Australian Catholic University study said they hoped to address the issues raised in the FECCA review and inform the future development of ethno-specific aged care services.
“One purpose of our research is to find out how existing ethno-specific aged care is different from mainstream aged care and to determine how this difference contributes to better wellbeing of the residents,” said Professor Lazar Stankov from ACU’s Institute for Positive Psychology and Education and a researcher on the study.
“Previous research has shown that when people get older, they may prefer their first language instead of their second or third language, due to issues like dementia,” he said. “So in that case, being taken care of by someone who can speak their first language is very important to them.”
How and when someone migrated to Australia may also affect their wellbeing in aged care, said Professor Stankov. Those who migrated later in life, such as for retirement or family reunion, may have more entrenched cultural traditions and be less familiar with Australian culture.
The study will measure the wellbeing of CALD residents from Chinese, Greek, Italian and Dutch backgrounds in ethno-specific aged care against similar residents in mainstream facilities. It will then conduct focus groups with those from ethno-specific facilities to document their experiences.
Professor Stankov predicted that when completed, the results of the study would also be useful for mainstream service providers who wish to implement culturally-focused care.
FECCA acting chair, Eugenia Grammatikakis, said she was pleased to see the influence of FECCA’s review upon research on older CALD Australians. She said she looked forward to the results of the ACU study, as it should result in a firm base for culturally, linguistically and spiritually appropriate aged care and better communication between care staff and CALD residents.
“Studies such as this are needed to provide an evidence base to demonstrate the challenges CALD people face, and to help the Australian Government design an aged care system that removes or mitigates this disadvantage,” Ms Grammatikakis told AAA.
The study is currently seeking participants from Chinese, Greek, Italian or Dutch backgrounds in mainstream care facilities in New South Wales and Victoria. The survey takes about 45 minutes to complete and if necessary, a family member or carer can assist. The survey will be in residents’ own languages.
If you are interested in participating, contact Zhu Chen on 02 9701 4638 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.