Meeting the needs of our culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) ¬†population is already a considerable challenge for the age services sector in Australia, and one which will grow in importance in coming years.¬† In 2011, the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare estimated that of those aged 65 and over, 30 per cent were from a non-English speaking background. The Australian Bureau of Statistics expects this group to grow by 50 per cent by 2026.
Research in 2005 (Runci) showed that 86 per cent of aged care facilities have residents who either preferred or needed to¬†speak a ¬†language other than English, while only 56 per cent of the facilities had some staff able to speak another language. ¬†A 1992 study (Lazarus) indicated that 54% of elders in care in NSW were not able to communicate their basic needs due to language issues.
Other studies of this issue have demonstrated that even bilingual clients can revert to their first language,¬†struggle to separate the two languages ‚Äď speaking in their first language when their second language is required.¬† Sometimes they may experience longer reaction times,¬†or mix languages.¬† This can be difficult and distressing, not only for care staff but also¬†for loved ones.¬†¬†Importantly it can severely impact¬†on¬†a client’s ¬†ability to direct appropriate care.
Recognising this issue ¬†and the critical importance of addressing it, Leading Age Services Australia has established a CALD committee to formulate policy and steer industry planning.¬† For more information on the CALD committee, contact us.