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How can we make aged care inclusive in New Zealand?

Immigrants have played a significant role in shaping the cultural landscape of New Zealand. From the early indigenous Maori, to the European colonizers, Chinese gold-miners, and later waves of Asian and Polynesian migrants having brought with them their own beliefs and attitudes that shape their perception of their adopted nation. Now New Zealand has more ethnicities than the world has countries according to Statistics New Zealand.  This diversity brings with it many benefits including helping create a more tolerant and open-minded society.

While most have moved to New Zealand to have a better life, it is also important to remember that for some people it is difficult to feel “at home” in their adopted country of choice. This seems especially true for older migrants.  Indian community groups in Auckland say the lack of care home provision for people from different ethnicities is leaving some feeling isolated and affecting their health. The groups say there is not enough provision for the current population and are worried about the future as the number of migrants grows. Language barriers mean people struggle to explain their health problems, vegetarians have been served meat, and residents feel depressed and lonely as the only non-New Zealanders.

How can we respect and embrace peoples culture while they are in Care?

Food

Care homes are governed by their contracts with district health boards which say culturally appropriate services should be provided. Although they do the best they can, it is not always feasible to cater for everyone. While it may not be practical or cost effective to cook 2 or 3 residents a separate meal if there are 100 other residents getting the same meal, however it may be possible to provide seasoning or sauces, make a side dish for them once in a while, or make one meal a month that is a different cuisine may make people feel more at home. Alternatively, you could encourage family members to bring in food every so often.

Language and culture

Having staff and other residents learning simple phrases like “hello”, “how are you?” etc. in their native language can make all the difference to someone who may be feeling isolated. Also recognizing words like “help” may be useful if there is an emergency.

Taking note of important holidays and celebrations and making an effort to help residents celebrate them is also important. Making a little effort means a lot for residents who may be struggling to fit in and feel at home!

Some cultures or religion also have important welcoming protocol like Maori do with their pōwhiri. While it may be asking too much for staff to perform these, it might be a good idea to get in touch with local church community groups and leaders who may be able to formally welcome in a new resident to the facility.

Are we ready for big changes?

Each year New Zealand becomes more diverse, and it won’t be long before there is a real need for ethnically inclusive care facilities, whether it be whole care facilities specifically for those who come from, for example, Polynesia, or maybe rest home and hospital wings where they cater specifically to those of Indian decent. There are already a few of these in care facilities around New Zealand.  What ever option, it is on the horizon and facilities should think about how they can begin to accommodate different peoples cultures.

About Eve Williams

Eve Williams
Eve Williams is the Production and Social Media Administrator for Eldernet. She has a passion for learning new things.

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