Project knocking down language barriers to accessing aged care

Harnessing the potential of community radio is one initiative being piloted to educate multicultural communities about aged care.

Harnessing the potential of community radio is one initiative being piloted to educate multicultural communities about aged care.

Bilingual aged care experts are working with ethnic radio stations as part of a new project to boost awareness of the aged care system among culturally and linguistically diverse seniors.

Terrie Leoleos, program manager of the Speak My Language initiative, says knowledge of the service system – and in particular My Aged Care – is low in many migrant and refugee communities, with language and literacy a key barrier.

“The program is about building confidence, awareness and understanding of the aged care system among communities and seniors,” she tells Community Care Review.

“It’s also a call to action. We hope the information our listeners receive hits home enough for them to seek help.”

For many older people, ethnic radio is an accessible and trusted source of information and is frequently rated highly as the preferred medium for communication, Leoleos says.

The pilot is targeting 25 languages, across 80 ethnic radio stations in four states and territories – NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT.

Bilingual facilitators with aged care expertise are working with radio hosts to produce a six to 14 week on-air program on aged care and healthy ageing topics.

A key part of the bilingual facilitator’s role will be to find aged care experts, professionals and consumers who speak a second language to share their stories and have on-air conversations.

“It’s a model that overcomes the barrier of language and puts communities in the driver’s seat. They get to drive messages to their own communities and they know how best to deliver those messages,” she says.

A shared journey

Leoleos says critical to the program is the sharing of consumer experiences.

“We hope that people sitting in their lounge room at home listening to a story will say, ‘that sounds like me.’ And where they may sit at home and feel there is no hope, they will hear somebody in their own language say, ‘I have been there and this is how I overcame these obstacles.’ It’s those stories that make change.

“It normalises what seems to be a very individual situation and emphasises the message – ‘you can reach out and this is the kind of help that is available for you’”.

Based on extensive consultation, a series of 14 popular aged care topics were identified for discussion on air. These include accessing the My Aged Care gateway, understanding assessment and services, planning for the future, consumer rights and responsibilities as well as topics such as dementia and elder abuse.

“Given the Commonwealth’s focus on wellness, reablement and restorative approaches, we would like to demystify what that means to our clients and embed that into many of the key messages and stories that we tell,” she says.

To extend the content’s reach, the recorded conversations will be available to download as a podcast from In-depth panel discussions with guest speakers will also be available to download through the speak my language virtual café series.

The project is a collaboration between the Ethnic Communities Council (ECC) of NSW, ECC Victoria, ECC Queensland, the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) and the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council.

The two-year pilot received a $1 million Dementia and Aged Care Services grant from the Federal Government to develop its community education model and training resources for hosts and bilingual facilitators.

Leoleos says the pilot’s evaluation will help inform the rollout of a national model.

Researcher and consultant Carrie Hayter says the Speak My Language initiative is a welcome development.

Hayter has recently completed a research project on the experiences of service providers across South West Sydney on navigating the community care reforms.

Educating and empowering older people and their carers, particularly from CALD backgrounds, to know how to access and engage with the aged care system was the most commonly reported issue from providers, says Hayter.

She says the needs and perspectives of older people from CALD backgrounds, including older refugees demand more attention in public policy.

Considering that one in three people over 65 were born in a non-English speaking country, these issues are not a minority concern for the aged care system, she says.

In addition to the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS), Hayter advocates for the My Aged Care contact centre to actively recruit bilingual staff, similar to the operation of Centrelink’s multilingual phone service.

Major report handed to government

Tackling some of the systemic barriers facing CALD seniors, a two-year long investigation undertaken by Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care (PICAC) has made six recommendations to government to improve the accessibility of the aged care system.

The My Aged Care CALD Accessibility report submitted in late 2017, which the government is yet to release, recommended:

  • setting up information hubs in shopping centres and at community events
  • delivering community education programs in consultation with community leaders
  • making cultural competency an accountability measure for government-funded aged care service providers
  • translating information in community languages, which is also supported by access to the TIS and bilingual staff
  • targeting community groups using the most appropriate technologies and media
  • establishing one comprehensive assessment process that uses well-trained and culturally-competent staff and interpreters.

The Department of Health told CCR it was considering the report’s findings and acknowledged more could be done in some areas.

This article appears in the current Autumn edition of Community Care Review magazine.

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Tags: cald, Carrie Hayter, community-care-review-slider, department-of-health, my-aged-care, picac, speak-my-language,

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