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Support services for diverse groups accessing aged care

Accessing aged care can be confusing at the best of times, but if you have a different cultural background, and language or communication barriers, it may impact your ability to understand what you are accessing – which can make the whole process all that more difficult.

Last updated: October 25th 2022
Accessing aged care can be harder if you have a language barrier or issues communicating. [Source: iStock]

Accessing aged care can be harder if you have a language barrier or issues communicating. [Source: iStock]

Key points:

  • Understanding your health and aged care needs has been shown to improve your overall health and wellbeing
  • The Government provides supports to cultural groups and people with communication barriers to assist them in accessing aged care
  • If you aren’t able to access Government aged care straight away, you can get supports through your local council or community

Whether English is not your first language, you need care that is responsive to your cultural needs, or extra supports to understand and translate the world around you, there are aged care services out there to suit everyone – it’s just about finding them.

There are many services and organisations out there to assist you in accessing and understanding aged care to make sure you receive the best possible care and supports for your needs, which are reflective of your cultural identity and communication preferences.

Cultural supports in aged care

With Australia being such a melting pot of cultures, there is a growing group of older Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds looking for aged care services sensitive to their specific cultural, linguistic and spiritual needs.

Accessing supports with the confidence that the people delivering the care understand your culture and knowing that services are tailored to your needs will make it easier to accept the help you need.

This has also been associated with huge health and wellbeing benefits.

One national initiative is the Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care (PICAC) program, funded by the Government to improve aged care service delivery for older people from CALD communities.

The initiative helps older people to access culturally appropriate residential aged care and community care services and supports providers to deliver this care.

Many providers employ staff from different cultural backgrounds that understand the needs and wants of clients that originate from the same country or speak the same language.

Some aged care homes are considered ‘cluster’ facilities where multiple residents have a similar background and the home makes an extra effort to focus on meeting the needs of these residents by offering culturally appropriate foods, celebrating culturally significant events and providing social and activity programs that cater for the interest of that group of residents.


A significant proportion of the Australian population speak a language other than English as their first language.

For older people with limited knowledge of English, it may be hard to understand what is being discussed with a service provider, for example, when it comes to creating care plans or medication management.

If they have any underlying medical conditions, they may have less understanding of their diagnosis or treatment plan because of the language barrier. For these people, access to interpreter services is an essential part of their care.

For those who are hard of hearing or have communication difficulties, you will likely also have issues finding out what you need to know before accessing aged care.

The Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) is an interpreting service provided by the Australian Government. The service covers more than 160 languages and is available 24/7 on 13 14 15.

  • Translation

There are over 22,000 organisations and businesses that are registered with TIS National, including State and Federal Government departments, medical clinics, emergency services and more.

While TIS National services are available 24/7, you are only able to contact businesses during their business hours.

When you contact TIS National, an English-speaking operator will ask for the language interpreter you require, you will then be directed to the appropriate interpreter.

Once connected, your interpreter will ask you who you want to contact and will connect the call for you.

Interpreters will not engage in any informal conversation with you as they are required to remain professional and impartial during the call.

You are also able to request and organise a TIS National interpreter for in person assistance.

If you have communication issues or impairments that make phone calls difficult, you may benefit from utilising the National Relay Service (NRS) which is available 24/7.

  • Impairment

The NRS is available for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have difficulties speaking to someone over the phone.

You can make a call through the NRS and you will be connected with a Relay Officer who will assist you to communicate with a hearing person on a phone call.

You don’t have to use your voice or be able to hear on these calls, you can utilise voice to text or text to voice functions, as well as communicate through Auslan.

For the TTY (Teletypewriter) option, call 13 36 77; if you wish to have a voice relay call, contact 1300 555 727, or if you want an SMS relay number, contact 0423 677 767.

For a video chat call or an NRS captions call, find the links on the Infrastructure Department website. Video relay calls are the only service that isn’t available 24/7.

  • Family support

If you need extra assistance with connecting with businesses and providers when accessing aged care, talk to your family and friends about getting extra help translating and communicating.

This may include your loved ones coming along to meetings with you to discuss your options and translate these conversations for you.

Council and community supports

If you need some support at home, whether it is someone to help you do your shopping, prepare meals or give you a ride to an appointment, there may be help available in your local community.

Your friends or family may be happy to help out or a neighbour may be able to assist if you need to have your lawns mowed or to run errands for you.

There are a number of community services available to help with basic daily tasks, including assistance with shopping, preparing and cooking meals, home and garden maintenance or personal or domestic assistance.

Your local council is a good starting point for finding out what organised supports are offered near you. Community groups can help you keep socially active and connected within your community, reducing the risk of social isolation.

What assistance do you need to access aged care? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

What does Culturally Specific Environments mean in aged care?
Diversity standards and initiatives in aged care
Inclusive aged care: What are special needs groups?
Finding LGBTIQ sensitive and inclusive aged care


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