Living in a residential aged care home when your first language is not English can be isolating, alienating and frightening. For many older Italian residents, it takes many months for them to settle into their new surroundings but they may continue to struggle with a different language and culture on a daily basis.
The CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) Activity Program is designed to bridge the gap between the daily activities of the nursing home and the Italian residents, as well as promote inclusion and belonging to their new place of residence.
Co.As.It. Community Services has provided valuable support services to aged care homes by implementing culturally appropriate activity groups for residents of Italian background. In addition, Co.As.It. Community Services facilitates cultural awareness briefings for staff and volunteers. The Italian activity groups have provided a valuable link between the Italian residents in care and the wider community by bringing together all Italian residents to share activities, music, morning teas, and other distinctly Italian cultural past times. The groups enrich the quality of life for our elderly Italians who often cannot participate in the facility’s diversional therapy activities because of lack of English skills, cognitive impairment and cultural differences. It is encouraging to see that even residents with dementia still show happiness and direct responses when they hear Italian voices, music or smell Italian coffee.
Since running the groups we have identified many positive changes not only for the residents but also for staff. The groups have helped residents make the transition from home to nursing home and have been integral in alleviating isolation, promoting inclusiveness, fostering participation and belonging as well as providing staff with expertise, support and resources on how best to cater to their specific needs. At times CALD elderly are labelled as difficult or unco-operative but we have found that these actions are often misinterpreted. Difficult behaviour is often caused by frustration or depression because their needs are not being met in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.
The CALD activities are run in 14 nursing homes in the Brisbane region. Without the understanding and support of these special nursing homes, the Italian CALD elderly residents would be greatly marginalized. Consistent with Co.As.It. Community Service’s commitment to the community, these activity groups are delivered on a not for profit basis, with Co.As.It. Community Services meeting the delivery costs of the program.
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