Australia’s senior population reflects our famously broad and vibrant cultural and lifestyle diversity.
Many older people were born overseas in countries with rich and wonderful cultures, histories, languages and traditions that they are proud to keep alive in their families and communities.
Across the country, as they age, Australians from diverse backgrounds access aged care sector supports and many of them move into nursing homes.
When we use the term ‘diversity’, it means valuing an individual’s right to identify with race, colour, gender, age, religious belief, ethnicity, cultural background, marital or family status, economic circumstance, human capacity, expression of thought and sexual orientation as well as their experiences, skills and capabilities.
“At SummitCare, we’re delighted that our residents are very diverse. Many of them, for instance, weren’t born in Australia,” says Chief Operating Officer, Michelle Sloane.
“Residents have a right to respectful care that promotes the things that are important to them. It’s based on our commitment that everyone we support lives in an environment filled with warmth, that we recognise their worth as a special and unique person, and that we focus at all times on their optimal wellbeing.”
Across the SummitCare residential aged care homes in Sydney and Newcastle, staff are educated in the cultural, religious and lifestyle practices of residents from a wide range of backgrounds.
As examples, at SummitCare’s Canley Vale home, menus are designed to cater for Vietnamese, Khmer and Indochinese residents, staff are multi-lingual, and culturally specific activities and community engagement programs are run regularly.
At SummitCare Randwick, Sonja Newman, the Manager of Customer Support and Administration is fluent in Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian languages. And across the homes, staff speak Italian, Spanish, Tagalo, Greek, Hindi, Nepalese, simplified Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese and Khmer.
“We regularly host national days and special cultural events for our residents, their families and communities,” says Michelle. “It’s all about being inclusive and respectful. Plus, we have a lot of fun!
“As we look back on Reconciliation Week, celebrated recently across Australia, we are also pleased to say that we encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to call SummitCare their home.”
Last year, our residence in Wallsend, Newcastle celebrated its tenth anniversary. A special day to mark the birthday was commenced by Jeff Townsend, a local Awabakal Aboriginal community member, who performed a smoke ceremony in their rose garden, meeting up afterwards with a number of the residents of the home who are elders.
Bringing together local schools, the elders of the Awabakal Aboriginal community and local businesses, plus the staff and most importantly the residents, was a beautiful celebration of the community spirit.
Similarly, residents who identify as LGBTIQ are encouraged to express themselves and feel comfortable to do so.
“Like all of our culturally and linguistically different activities, our LGBTI strategy ensures that our services adequately reflect, and are inclusive of the needs of residents,” says Michelle. “A special project was undertaken to make sure staff have the education and resources available to ensure we can provide an LGBTI inclusive service. Surveys of staff and residents told us what they needed and we have responded by implementing the learnings across all of our homes.”
SummitCare delivers cultural and lifestyle wellbeing in a range of ways.
“The compassionate team provides care that is holistic, individual and appropriate. We collaborate closely with our residents and their families to ensure choice in care and lifestyle, delivered with honesty, trust and respect,” adds Michelle.
“Our culturally respectful and diversity practices are designed to celebrate inclusion that engages with residents very personally and helps them live the life they choose.”