Currently, one in three Australians aged 65 and over were born overseas, most of them in a non-English speaking country.

While their circumstances are diverse, many of them face common barriers to accessing aged care in our country.

Speaking a language other than English makes it difficult to navigate government services. Having different cultural practices and norms can often leave people feeling alienated, misunderstood or even unsafe in residential facilities and community care programs.

A significant number of older people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds also have a poorer socioeconomic status compared to their Anglo-Australian counterparts, which leads to other forms of disadvantage.

According to the aged care royal commission’s final report, our aged care system often fails to provide appropriate care to people from diverse backgrounds. “The need to communicate in a language other than English can be an insurmountable barrier to accessing and using the aged care system,” said the commissioners. “Across the aged care system, staff are often poorly trained in culturally safe practices, with little understanding of the additional needs of people from diverse backgrounds.”

Closing the gap with culturally aware home care

The HomeCaring Group is addressing this significant gap in the aged care industry by providing consumer-directed home care that nurtures each client’s cultural identity.

In 2015, 26 percent of home care recipients were older CALD Australians, revealing an appetite amongst seniors of diverse backgrounds to stay in their own homes, where they are connected to family and friends.

To support them, HomeCaring delivers a full range of care services, working collaboratively with clients, their families and healthcare professionals to provide individualised care that meets a person’s cultural needs.

On the ground-level, this takes a variety of forms: care workers who speak a client’s language, case managers who can advocate for clients when navigating government services, flexible care plans that incorporate cultural preferences without question, connections with community groups that provide culturally specific support.

What makes it all possible is HomeCaring’s model of home care programs operated by managers who are from the same communities as their clients.

Currently, the company provides care to 15 linguistically diverse communities that call Australia home. According to Chief Operating Officer Michaela Brown, culturally aware care isn’t just lip service, but a value that is deeply embedded at the provider’s core. “Most of our carers come from the local community where they work. They understand and are sensitive to the client’s ethnic background, which puts them in the best position to deliver culturally appropriate care,” she said.

One example is Candy Hu, case manager for HomeCaring’s operations on Sydney’s north shore. A registered nurse born in China, Candy migrated to Australia in the 90s and speaks Mandarin and Cantonese. She supports CALD clients and intuitive understands their needs, thanks to her connection to the Chinese migrant community in Sydney.

“Many of them are really isolated. They can’t speak English very well; they don’t know the policies from the government and what benefits they can receive. I’m happy to help them understand the system,” said Candy.

“They may feel quite depressed when I first visit, but if they can spend time talking to someone in their language, that can cheer them up. I can then encourage my clients to go out and not isolate themselves at home. If mobility allows, I will encourage them to go out and join a social support group.”

“If they need a care worker to help with domestic assistance, cooking or transport, based on their language, I’ll send the right person to help them. I’ll find someone who can speak their language, who matches what they need,” said Candy.

“If we see our clients are healthy, happy and interacting with the community, that’s the best outcome for us.”

To find out more about HomeCaring’s range of home care services – including dementia care, palliative care, respite care, disability care and more – visit homecaring.com.au