We live in one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world. There are a significant proportion of people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds aged over 65 years, and it is growing! More than 600,000 people (20%) were born outside Australia and it is predicted that by 2021, this number will increase to 30%. This diversity is a distinct and wonderful thing, with more than 260 different languages spoken in Australia today (including Indigenous languages). Therefore, it is imperative that we recognise and understand the individual needs of not only different cultures but the diversity that exists within each of them. Our aged care sector has a responsibility to accommodate this diversity and to ensure that individual, person-centred care is achieved at all times.
Research and feedback gained from the last two Commonwealth funded programs by the Greek Welfare Centre (Community Partners Program 2009-2012 and The Aged Care Service Improvement and Healthy Ageing Grants Fund 2012-2015) has strongly signalled two major themes: (1) the aged care workforce is lacking the appropriate cultural awareness needed to maximise cultural competence, and (2) there is a need for continued education to the Greek community about service providers, service provision and the continually evolving aged care sector.
The current GWC Greek culturally-specific ACSIHAG program is the first of its kind to explore and investigate the dynamics between workforce cultural competency and the realities of residential care for Greek residents – another example of a CALD organisation’s unique position to deliver CALD-specific program and resources. Currently this project is actively delivering cultural awareness sessions with notable results.
Aged Care Service Improvement and Healthy Ageing Grants Fund (ACSIHAG)
With our vision and mission firmly at the forefront, the Greek Welfare Centre applied for and was successful in gaining Commonwealth funding for a new program named the Aged Care Service Improvement and Healthy Ageing Grants Fund (ACSIHAG).
The Centre’s gives us great insight into the needs of the Greek elderly community and those working in the aged care sector in Adelaide, and it was these insights that provided the catalyst for applying for the Grant. As a result of the funding, an exciting new three year project for the Centre begun. The name of this new project:
‘Developing and delivering Greek specific, culturally appropriate education/training package’.
Objectives and outcomes
The objectives and outcomes of the Project are to strengthen the capacity of the health and aged care sectors to deliver high quality aged care, and to promote healthy ageing. The outcome is for staff of residential facilities, both mainstream and Greek-specific, to be able to deliver optimum person-centred care within a culturally sensitive context, ensuring equity and access for the residents.
The primary outcome for the GWC ACSIHAG Project is to increase the cultural competency of the residential aged care sector. It is hoped that quality of life for Greek elderly residents will be realised through equity and access of targeted culturally-specific care.
Culturally Specific Care
Cultural and linguistic appropriate care is a right of all culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities and it is the duty of service providers to provide it. We must promote and cultivate a workforce that acknowledges and celebrates an individual’s ethnicity, customs, culture and norms even though they may differ significantly from their own. We must treat someone as we would expect to be treated with dignity, respect, compassion and appreciation for each individual and who they are.
Community Partners Program (CPP) 2009-2012
In late 2009, the Greek Welfare Centre successfully gained funding, through the Australian Government’s Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) to run a Communities Partners Program (CPP).
“The CPP aims to promote and facilitate increased and sustained access to aged care information and services by culturally and linguistically diverse communities (CALD) with significant aged care needs”.
Grants are given to community-based organisations representing CALD communities. The grants are then used to support these older people in accessing aged care information and services. Its key role: educate, inform and advise those in our community, especially the Greek elderly, their carers and families, about the vast range of aged care services available, enabling them to make informed choices.
The needs of the Greek elderly population in general have not changed greatly but rather heightened as the ageing population grows. Intergenerational issues surrounding care of the elderly are beginning to show. Whereas the elderly believe that care belongs solely within the family, the children of elderly are experiencing challenges in fulfilling this wish, dealing with families of their own and full-time employment. Unfortunately, a lack of knowledge by families of the myriad of service provisions available inhibits access, however, as their family members age, their needs increase. As there is an increase in dissemination of information and relationships are developed with CaLD organisations, there was witnessed a yearning by the Greek elderly to admit they needed help and enquire about access. The Greek CPP project amplified the absolute need for continued dissemination of information for both the community and service providers. It distinguished the gaps and needs as outlined in the reports and strengthened relationships with both. It also recognised the vital importance and role of CaLD organisations. The Greek Welfare Centre has been a pivotal point of information, community education, practical assistance, referral and service provision.
This project was a perfect opportunity to investigate, to discover, to address, to analyse, and to attempt to initiate change with activities from this project producing positive outcomes.
Dissemination of information to the Greek elderly, their carers and their families was an ongoing activity which gained momentum as relationships were built between the CPP Greek Aged Access Project and the different Greek seniors groups. With the gaining of trust and evolvement of rapport, the channels of communication were opened. This facilitated increased awareness and further discussions and enquiries by the Greek community, resulting in increased access to service information and referrals to service providers. Simultaneously, there was a mutually beneficial increase in formal links between the Greek Welfare Centre and the various service providers.
Feedback from staff where Greek cultural information awareness was delivered was indicative of the importance of such sessions within the cultural competency framework. Such sessions empowered and provided staff with a solid framework to which CALD cultural sensitive service provision could be executed and administered. This acquiring and understanding of knowledge, in turn, highlighted gaps and needs, which led to adapting and adjusting current practices and policies to meet these highlights requirements.
Development and production of the Riverland Bilingual Health & Community Services Directory.
With such a high percentage of the Riverland region made up of elderly Greek, the CPP Project positively impacted on the Greek community and the regional health service providers. Dissemination of information, Greek-specific cultural awareness sessions, and the development and production of the Riverland Bilingual Health & Community Services Directory all contributed to reaching the desired outcome of education, increased awareness and access, and positively impacted service planning and delivery. The Directory was mailed out to all Greek families via their individual Greek community databases. Synchronic delivery of this Directory to regional health service providers produced many additional requests for this valuable resource. Greek cultural awareness sessions to the staff of service providers, and their adamant requests for follow up sessions, clearly highlighted the need for continued Greek-specific awareness sessions in regional areas.
The most pronounced need that materialised from this project was the need for formal Greek-specific educational training to be developed and delivered to staff within the aged care sector, encompassing all facets of Greek culture, history, religion and traditions. Positive ageing is an admirable goal but can only be achieved through person-centred care. It is only through such education that planning and policy refining can be undertaken in order to deliver the best culturally sensitive care.