Home | Clinical Focus | The language of love: caring for the linguistically diverse in aged care

The language of love: caring for the linguistically diverse in aged care

George Aki sat in the Sydney hearing of the royal commission to give testimony, and unlike most given that day, he was fairly positive. Aki was happy with the care his father had received towards the end of his life.

However, Aki wanted to bring up a slight issue – one which, in his opinion, suffers from a lack of policy direction.

Aki’s father was Egyptian with fluent English and with degrees and a master’s in construction. His father was a charismatic and intelligent man, Aki said, but his health declined in 2015 and he was eventually diagnosed with Lewy body dementia. He slowly lost his English, and with it, his ability to communicate with the world.

Aki tried to find language-friendly facilities, but this was a struggle and, bar a nurse or volunteer who had Arabic language skills, his father was alone.

“He couldn’t communicate and he loved talking,” Aki said. “His frustration would then sometimes trigger his psychosis.”

His father passed away in 2018 after a short period of deterioration and Aki thinks his father had more to give; if he had been able to communicate, things may have been different.

“Short of the volunteers and strategies like drawings that Dad could point to when his English became incomprehensible, there appeared to be no effective policy or resources relating to the complex communication issues for English Second Language people. I was disheartened that the inequality and disadvantage was minimised, virtually to the point of invisibility.”

Sadly, this is a common story in a country where 6.9 million of us were born overseas and 23.2 per cent of homes speak another language as well as English.

To discuss how we can improve the lives of CALD aged care residents, Aged Care Insite spoke with Monita Mascitti-Meuter, cultural diversity program coordinator, and Karen Thode, cultural diversity officer and residential support program clinician, from St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

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One comment

  1. Annette Barbetti

    I have made a submission to the Senate inquiry which, among other things, mentions the problem of migrants who have stopped responding to people who speak to them in English. One way of dealing with them is to speak to them in their own language and ask them to please speak English because their visitor does not speak the language that they are using. I have successfully used this method with a Russian-speaking migrant.