Jan 12, 2024

Are you culturally responsive to aged care clients? Refine your skills now!

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Here are five common cultural misunderstandings aged care workers experience at work. [Source: Supplied]

Key points:

  • Approximately 37% of Australians aged 65 and over were born overseas, further emphasising the need for all workers to be more culturally aware and educated, which is viewed as a key challenge for the aged care sector in the coming years
  • A Government white paper identified that migrant workers will be key to filling worker shortages in the aged care sector in the coming decade, with a total of 110,000 additional home care support workers needed by 2030 to meet the unprecedented demand from Australia’s ageing population
  • Aged care providers have been pushing for a need for practical training directly addressing the real-world challenges faced by workers, mirrored by the Government’s Aged Care Diversity Framework, which has called for better training to support providers in accommodating the diverse characteristics and life experiences of aged care clients, such as arriving in Australia as a migrant or refugee

Aged care has historically been a multicultural industry and Australians pride ourselves on our welcoming nature and multiculturalism. However, there are limitations in our care system that see staff and fellow residents lack understanding of different cultures – meaning care is not as person-centred as it could be. This is due to a lack of educational programs in Australia that focus on training aged care staff to cater to older people from diverse communities.

With this feedback in mind, Settlement Services International (SSI) has launched a new learning program for aged care workers on culturally safe service for older people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds as a way to boost health outcomes and quality of life.

With a target of training 14,600 people within 18 months, the Culturally Responsive Support in Aged Care program aims to help unlock the proven benefits of this person-centred approach for Australia’s ageing population by significantly raising the skill level of direct care workers in interacting with CALD older people.

This will hopefully see fewer barriers for clients accessing healthcare, an increase in customer satisfaction and business performance for aged care providers, and improved retention of direct care workers within the short-staffed industry.

The online program is delivered in seven accessible e-learning lessons, which can be completed on any laptop or mobile device in approximately 90 minutes. 

Topics include:

  • What is culture
  • Caring for people from culturally diverse backgrounds
  • Culturally responsive support
  • Communication
  • Getting to know your client
  • Understanding trauma
  • Self-care

Five common cultural misunderstandings 

These are some of the commonly experienced cultural misunderstandings aged care staff should be aware of. Do any of them sound familiar?

  • For a lot of people, saying “please” and “thank you” is how you show respect. However, many cultures don’t say “please”, or have a language equivalent for “thank you” and instead show their appreciation in other ways
  • Looking into someone’s eyes, especially if the other person is older, is considered disrespectful in some cultures. For other people, looking into someone’s eyes shows respect, confidence or that you are paying attention
  • Some cultures believe that shaking hands is always the correct way to greet someone for the first time. Other cultural customs rely on words or gestures instead
  • The concept of family extends to first and second cousins in some cultures, rather than being limited to a person’s parents, siblings, partner and children
  • Caring for older family members might mean weekly visits and the use of facilities such as residential care or nursing homes. In other cultures, this practice may be taboo or frowned upon, with children expected to provide them care at home

Janet Irvine, SSI Diversity Training Manager, said cultural misunderstandings are always a risk when two people come together. 

“Culturally responsive support is about acknowledging that we all have our own cultural perspectives. It requires us to be more self-aware of our own culture and careful not to impose it on others, and being open to learning about the client we are caring for so that we can help them to feel valued, respected and safe.”

The program is available free of charge to participants in the Government-funded Home Care Workforce Support Program, with a flexible paid option for aged care providers. A variety of customisable plans are available for small and large teams, organisations, or providers seeking ‘blended’ learning with in-person workshops to further extend learning outcomes.

Preview the program for the aged care sector here.

For more tips on providing culturally appropriate care, click here

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  1. Great blog post! As a cultural diversity trainer and aged care professional, I completely agree that cultural responsiveness is essential in providing high-quality care to aged care clients. It’s important to recognize that every individual has their own unique cultural background and to tailor our approach accordingly. I appreciate the practical tips and strategies shared in the post, and I will definitely be implementing them in my own work. Thank you for highlighting the importance of cultural responsiveness in aged care!


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