Giving a voice to CALD elderly

Older CALD residents will now be able to better communicate their needs to carers thanks to a new government initiative.

By Kate Horowitz

The Minister for Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, has announced that translation and interpreting services will be made available to older Australians in aged care facilities who come from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

The purpose of the service is to help older people from non-English speaking backgrounds communicate on health and aged care matters.

“At present, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds make up 16 per cent of residents in residential aged care homes,” Mr Butler said.

“However, the AIHW projects that by 2026, one in four people aged 80 and over will be from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.  

“Communication barriers can mean these older Australians may not receive timely care and support which can lead to poorer health outcomes and increased isolation.

“These services will ensure that language or culture do not act as barriers to receiving high quality aged care.”

The new service will include on-site visits and telephone interpreting services which will both be available around the clock for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Currently, there are almost 30,000 culturally and linguistically diverse residents in aged care homes that could benefit from this initiative.

The manager of Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing, Ljubica Petrov, said she is pleased that the government has finally provided the much needed services

“Aged care services have raised the issue for better communication service for the elderly to us for some years now,” Ms Petrov said.

“I think that the new translation and interpreting service is the single greatest thing towards culturally inclusive services. Communication is vital in identifying the needs of residents and their families. 

“To identify what the elderly person is feeling you need to have a discussion or an ongoing dialogue with residents and their families. Providing interpretative services is equally important for the residents as well as the staff at aged care facilities.”

Ms Petrov noted that the translated information sheets that the Department of Health and Ageing has, for some time, been of great assistance, but a communication service will provide even greater cultural inclusion for the elderly.

Above: Pino Migiliorini, Chair of Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia. 

Chair of Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA),  Pino Migliorino,  welcomed the announcement as an important access and equity measure for CALD residents in aged care facilities. But, he said, funding is inadequate.

“The $2.2 million allocation may sound a lot but when broken down to cost per interpreting sessions; it will provide 80,000 phone interview sessions during working hours, only 25,000 phone interview sessions if accessed after hours or approximately 12,000 on site interpreter sessions,” Mr Migliorino said.

“As such there is a need to monitor just how far these resources will go. Therefore the government needs to monitor the expenditure both in terms of its distribution across aged care residential facilities across Australia and between language groups with a view to increase the amount if it falls significantly short of need or redirecting the amount if specific language groups are missing out.

“Ultimately, the more capacity and competence aged care facilities have to deal with non-English speaking residents, the better their capacity to deliver quality care.”

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) will provide the translation and interpreter services.


Tags: aged-care, centre-for-cultural-diversity-in-ageing, communication, department-of-health-and-ageing,

2 thoughts on “Giving a voice to CALD elderly

  1. TIS is a generic T&I service. The care sector needs sector-specific interpreters (more than translators)so that health and aged/community care terms can be interpreted w/o losing its meaning. If TIS is the preferred provider, then TIS staff need additional training about aged/community care terminology within its context.

  2. I hold the degree of Masters of Health and Ageing from Macquarie university and have been doing volunteer job in two nursing homes. For CALD elderly living in facilities where there are no co-residents from their CALD background,where resident is unable to communicate in his or her own language is likely to be an isolating & lonely experience.
    As a coordinator I try to find some solution to these elderly and their families also aged care providers.
    I hope I could be there more often to help them,
    sometimes engaging only one person in these centres could be excellent solution, in my case, it would be great idea to have me as a coordinator, I speak four languages but still don’t have full time job.

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