(Transcript from World News Radio)
Australia’s largest migrant community group has launched a report, calling for better health and aged care services for an increasingly culturally-diverse society.
The Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia says migrants who arrive in the country at an older age often struggle to access basic services because of language and cultural barriers.
And as Michael Kenny reports, FECCA has called for the recruitment of more interpreters and bilingual health and aged care workers.
The FECCA study was funded by the federal government, with the research undertaken by the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide.
It draws upon figures from the last census in 2011, when there were 1.3 million Australians aged over 50 from a non English speaking background.
And it forecasts that the number of older Australians from a non English speaking background is expected to grow significantly over coming decades.
The report found some older migrants, especially those with poorer English skills, tend to have poorer health outcomes than other Australians.
The FECCA report also found that many aged care facilities are failing to provide culturally-appropriate care with many failing to provide homeland food or traditional medicine.
FECCA’s Chairman Joe Caputo says aged care needs to be far more responsive to the nation’s cultural diversity.
“Different communities have got different traditions and different ways of going about and caring for older people. So I think the system has to be flexible enough and understanding of the diversity of the communities that are getting older in Australia.”
Joe Caputo says it’s clear from the report that some older Australians from migrant communities prefer to be cared for by family members than in aged care facilities.
He says this is particularly true for migrants from Greece and Italy, but also for those born in countries like China.
“I think that most people would like to stay at home for as long as possible and they would like to have family members assisting them as they are getting older or getting frail and I think policy-makers can ensure that we put more resources into ensuring that people can stay at home, either looking after themselves or assisting family members who are looking after older people.”
FECCA says one of the greatest health challenges confronting many older Australians from a non English speaking background is dementia.
The report forecasts that the number of migrant dementia sufferers is set to grow from 35,000 in 2010 to 120,000 by 2050.
Pino Migliorino is the Chairman of the National Cross Cultural Dementia Network for Alzheimers Australia.
He says many dementia sufferers from a non English speaking background revert back to their first language, and often need extra support from bilingual health workers or interpreters.
Mr Migliorino says it is also critical for policy-makers to work alongside migrant communities to overcome some cultural stigma around dementia.
“It is an issue for them because what happens is the phenomena tends to be that it’s hidden. It tends to not be presented or people aren’t presenting with dementia until far later in the dementia course and at that point, services are far harder to actually access. There’s also the sense of community shame and sensitivity. So we really do need to work with the communities around dementia.”
The FECCA report also highlights the changing cultural make-up of Australia’s older population.
It predicts that older migrants from China, Vietnam and India are likely to outnumber those from Greece and Italy over coming decades.
Adelaide-based Rosa Colanero is the Chief Executive Officer of Multicultural Aged Care.
She believes the current aged care system is not keeping pace with the changing cultural-make up of the population and is failing to provide enough bilingual workers.
“The Vietnamese, the Chinese and the Indians of the future- they are the emerging communities, particularly the Chinese and the Indians and we will need an aged care service or aged care services that are able to deliver culturally appropriate care to them.”