Cultural artefacts, bilingual staff and shared understanding of culture help facilitate meaningful engagement with migrant aged care residents who have dementia, a University of Sydney study has found.
The study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy in March, explored how to support older migrants to live in residential aged care through a systematic review of 14 research papers of 12 studies.
Lead researcher Dr Margaret McGrath said the study was important because migrants with dementia living in residential aged care were at risk of disengagement.
“They can become disengaged from things that were meaningful and pleasurable to them throughout their lives, which is partly related to the consequences of dementia, but also partly related to the structures and the ways that residential aged care is provided for people with dementia,” Dr McGrath told Australian Ageing Agenda.
She said the study found having cultural artefacts in aged care home that were meaningful to people before they moved into care facilitated engagement.
“This includes photographs, films and, objects that are common for residents in their home culture,” said Dr McGrath, a senior lecturer at the Sydney School of Health Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and Health.
“Having positive relationships between the staff and having time for those relationships… to develop so that residents could be become known by the staff and people with dementia became almost like a family… is another factor,” Dr McGrath said.
A shared and flexible understanding of a resident’s culture is also important to meaningful engagement, she said.
Bilingual staff appear to offer a more flexible approach to communicating with residents with dementia than staff who were monolingual, while not speaking the same language is a barrier to meaningful engagement, the study found.
However, knowing the language or culture alone is not enough to connect, Dr McGrath said.
“That came clearly through one paper, where the resident theoretically shared the same cultural backgrounds as one of the caregivers in the residential facility… but there were substantial differences in their experiences,” she said.
The study also identified that a task-oriented approach to care hindered meaningful engagement, she said.
The findings confirm that engagement transcends culture, Dr McGrath said.
“It confirmed the value of thinking about each individual as an individual and thinking about how we can support people to engage and participate, even if their capacity is reduced,” she said.
“It also confirms that there are ways for people who are at the end stage of their life with advanced dementia … to be members of the residential aged care community.”
Access the study here.