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New project to bridge cultural divide in aged care

A Government funded project aimed at supporting personal carers from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds build relationships with older people was launched last Thursday in Melbourne by Danny Pearson MP, on behalf of the Victorian Minister for Training and Skills, Gayle Tierney.

The program is specifically designed to bridge the cultural divide between carers from CALD backgrounds and the people they are caring for [Source: Shutterstock].

The Little Things project, led by Meaningful Ageing Australia and Farnham Street Neighborhood Learning Centre (FSNLC), involves a package of evidence-based cross-cultural language training materials to help carers who identify as CALD create a more positive, integrated experience for older people in aged care.

According to the 2016 National Aged Care Workforce Census and Survey, 90 percent of residential care services and 70 percent of home care services employ staff who identify as CALD.

According to Pip Mackey, Project Coordinator of The Little Things, improving a carer’s ability to connect with older people in aged care can be taught through key linguistic features.

“We tend to be quite [unaware] of the cultural roles we follow and the minor adaptations we make to help us avoid causing offense and to come across as friendly and polite...In this project we want to raise awareness of how using little aspects of communication can make a big difference to how a carer connects with an older person,” she says.

Chief Executive Officer of Meaningful Ageing Ilsa Hampton says the program is specifically designed to bridge the cultural divide between carers from CALD backgrounds and the people they are caring for.

“[The project] will look at what works by interviewing and collecting recordings of best practice CALD personal carers, nominated by older people and their workplace, as they interact with the older people they are caring for,” Ms. Hampton says.

“By looking at current, authentic transcripts, this project will be able to identify many of the little things that carers do when communicating with older people that can make a big difference.

“All of this is the building block for integrated spiritual care, where we relate human to human first, alongside of any ‘tasks’ that need doing.”

Qianfei Kuang, a student involved in the pilot training of the project, says she learnt the importance of “the ‘little’ words and expressions we can use to build up a relationship with [an older person] or even in our daily life”.

Ms Mackey says this includes ‘little’ words such as ‘hmm’ or ‘yeah’ to respond to an older person’s requests and concerns and to show you are listening, or using ‘minimisers’ to play down impositions, such as “a quick shower” or “a little walk”.

Other key language features that will be focused on include making small talk before starting a practical task, using softening language to appear less direct and invasive and variations of pitch to show enthusiasm, care and engagement.

The materials will be trialled in participating aged care facilities and community based training organisations before the project is published.

Six other organisations are participating in the project, including Uniting AgeWell, Arcare, Jewish Care, Laverton Community Education Centre, The Centre for Continuing Education (Wangaratta), and Westgate Community Initiatives Group.

The Little Things project will run from now until June 2020.


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