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What does Culturally Specific Environments mean in aged care?

Our food, music, special cultural celebrations and languages can provide comfort and confirm our individual identity.

Last updated: November 24th 2022
It is estimated by 2026, one in every four people aged 80 years and over will be from a CALD background.  [Source: Shutterstock]

It is estimated by 2026, one in every four people aged 80 years and over will be from a CALD background. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • In the next few years, there is expected to be a big boost in people over the age of 80 who have a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background

  • Aged care can bring about many difficulties for people with CALD backgrounds

  • An aged care home has to provide care and services to all who enter, no matter their sexuality, background or gender

It is especially important you can feel connected with your cultural identity while in aged care or receiving aged care services.

A large number of people migrated to Australia from southern and eastern Europe in the 1950s and 60s, and in the 1970s to 80s many people moved ‘down under’ from Asian countries.

In 2019, 30 percent of Australia’s population was born overseas, mostly from non-English speaking countries, and this number is only expected to rise in the future.

It is estimated by 2026, one in every four people aged 80 years and over will be from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background.

People from CALD backgrounds often require aged care services sensitive to their specific cultural, spiritual, dietary and linguistic needs.

This type of care becomes especially important for older CALD people because they may gradually forget English, which can be a second language, and revert to their ‘mother tongue’.

The negative effects of ageing, through loss and diminished responsibilities, can frequently lead to the devalued status of older and frail aged people.

Barriers such as language and cultural misunderstanding, which is sometimes experienced by older CALD people, can lead to an even greater devaluation.

Since the ageing population and migration will be increasing in the future, it is essential that the Australian aged care sector can keep up with the demand for culturally specific environments and CALD sensitive services.

​Who can understand my care needs?

Many adult children may not be able to communicate well enough in their parents’ first languages to support decisions about health care; this is where bilingual/bicultural staff can help these residents live independently in safety and with dignity.

There are organisations in Australia which offer aged care service providers specialist education, multilingual resources and, sometimes at no charge, advice to meet the care needs of their CALD clients and residents.

Healthcare can be tricky when it comes to people from CALD backgrounds. If there is limited English proficiency, a CALD older person may not fully understand what medication or plans they need to follow for their health.

The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) is a Government interpreting service supporting people who need translating assistance. The service covers over 100 languages and can be accessed 24/7 on 13 14 50.

Alternatively, if you have a family member that is proficient in your mother language and English, they can be an informal interpreter for you.

In aged care facilities, the staff and health professionals need to have awareness and understanding for any clients that are from a diverse cultural group, as well as how to provide culturally inclusive and appropriate services and care.

Culturally specific environments in aged care

Not only can staff understand your personal needs for care and respect your own beliefs and values, it usually means you may have better access to events, celebrations and people that share your same cultural background.

If you have specific dietary requirements because of your religion or cultural background, your aged care facility will be aware and more prepared to accommodate those dietary needs while providing you adequate nutrition.

The leisure and lifestyle programs are an important part of any facility in Australia, so these programs may have more targeted cultural or religious activities to reduce any social isolation or seclusion.

If you feel seen and heard in your facility, this will always add to your overall experience in a nursing home.

It’s important to remember that no facility in Australia can be exclusive because of your religion or cultural background.

If a facility highlights they cater for certain CALD backgrounds, it means they have staff and resources more readily available to take care of people from those backgrounds.

All aged care facilities must provide services and care to consumers that enter their facility, no matter their life experience, cultural background, sexuality or gender.

Finding culturally-specific care

Our website contains a comprehensive list of culturally-specific residential, home and community care services in Australia. You can see a list of culturally specific nursing homes or culturally specific Home Care Packages by opening the filters and selecting a Cultural Environment.

Providers of multicultural translation, interpreting and information services are also profiled on this website. Alternatively, you can order a copy of the Aged Care Guide for a list of multicultural residential and community service providers in your state or territory.

What part of your culture is important to you to maintain while living in aged care? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content

Inclusive aged care: What are special needs groups?
Support services for diverse groups accessing aged care
Diversity standards and initiatives in aged care
Introduction to Nursing Homes
How to create a good relationship with your new aged care facility

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