Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world.

With a current population of almost 25 million people hailing from all across the globe, it should come as no shock that one out of every four people who live in this country were actually born overseas.

The majority of those who arrive on Australian shores seek nothing more than a safer existence and employment opportunities in order to allow their family a better lifestyle.

But these opportunities do not come without their fair share of challenges.

Many of the countries newest arrivals were fleeing the effects of war and found themselves in a state of crisis before making the decision to leave their homeland.

These decisions were born out of necessity and survival and did not afford the luxury of preparation.

Upon arriving in Australia, many immigrant families felt isolated due to language and cultural barriers, and sought refuge in the company of people with similar backgrounds and cultures.

These cultural groupings varied from suburb to suburb and helped to sustain the traditions and values of their former homelands heritage.

Now in 2018, many of the first arrivals who were brave enough to call Australia home, are elderly, and in the need of care.

And it’s no surprise that some of the challenges these people now face in old age, are the same types of issues that they encountered when they first arrived in this country.

Loneliness and isolation currently plague the aged care sector.

As living expenses continue to skyrocket, a family’s ability to have someone stay home and care for a loved one diminishes.

This type of lifestyle often results in elderly family members being placed in an aged care facility, and an eventual drop-off in contact between the family and elderly person.

While this is obviously not ideal, in most cases residents have the ability to communicate their thoughts and forge relationships with other residents and facility employees.

But for elderly people with little to no-English speaking ability, this results in complete isolation.

This lack of communication coupled with a difference in culture and foods often results in a miserable and lonely existence for elderly Australian immigrants.

And that is what makes culturally specific care environments so important to the people that need them.

Thuy Tran, Clinical Care Manager, at Mekong Cairnlea Vietnamese Aged Care, knows all too well the effects that culturally specific aged care has on the wellbeing of her predominantly Vietnamese resident base.

“Many of these residents come from traditional households where in some cases three generations of family live in the same home. Then when they arrive at a facility like this they have never had their own room or space and it can be daunting.

“The food is a very big deal, in some cases these people have spent over 70 years eating traditional food that they are used to, and residents who come here from other facilities are often malnourished because they are not used to eating other types of food.

“The comfort that they have in being able to communicate their thoughts to staff and fellow residents have really reopened their world and social lives and it has a massive impact on their quality of life,” she said.

While facilities endeavor to provide all residents with an adequate level of care, it would be virtually impossible for staff at an everyday facility to be able to cater their procedure to fit the nuanced needs of a variety of different cultures.

Culturally specific aged care facilities provide residents with both care and community. Allowing residents to communicate and rekindle the sense of spirit and resilience that allowed them to flourish in their new country.

Mekong Cairnlea have recently employed the services of Vative Healthcare & Nursing Academy in order to bolster the skills of the workforce in the facility.

While most employees do speak English, Vietnamese is actually their first language, but Vative Healthcare see this as a challenge rather than an obstacle.

The program brings to light not only the development of skills but also; perspective and critical thinking, so that change of practice is redesigned around the needs of the resident.

Care value is showcased and the importance of spending creative and quality time with residents to improve any issues around loneliness as well as promoting aspects of movement, nutrition and fun.

Vative Healthcare, CEO, Carmie Walker, believes that training staff for cultural specific care facilities is an opportunity to teach as well as an opportunity to adapt their training methods to learn and evolve.

“We learn from our elders not about how to deliver a Standardised Care Model, but to add in the personalised diversity, that creates a more consistent individualised model.

“We as a company did extensive research into Vietnamese culture and studied the journey of some this country’s earliest Indochinese refugees, and we think it’s just marvelous to be able to understand the different perspectives and needs of our community,” she said.

The level of diversity in Australia is the lifeblood of the culturally rich experiences that are available in multiple cities around country.

We need to start looking outside the bounds of standard care in order to ensure that quality of life is available to all Australians, not just those of us who were born here.


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