Researchers at Curtin University, WA have recently published the findings of an international study examining how migrant aged care workers approach dementia care. Migrant workers make up a large number of the residential aged care workforce. It’s important to understand how their experiences impact on their ability to care for people with dementia in these settings.
The workers in the study were born overseas and selected from countries where the culture, religion, language and ethnicity varied from their host country. Workers based in Australia, Sweden, Canada and England were among the cohort.
Results showed that individual workers understanding and experience of dementia varied. For example, workers from Middle Eastern backgrounds reported there was no definitive description of dementia in their culture. In some cultures, dementia care was seen as a family responsibility, others believed agitation in dementia was deliberate and intended to annoy family members. Some workers had very little knowledge of dementia to inform their practice.
Although residents and migrant care workers considered cultural diversity as a positive attribute in residential aged care, language difficulties were identified as a major challenge to effective communication. In addition, some migrant care workers felt discriminated against by both residents with dementia and colleagues from the dominant culture within the facility, which was a barrier to positive dementia care.
21 of the 35 migrant care workers in Australian aged care facilities had experienced racism from residents both with and without cognitive impairment. Workers from African backgrounds experienced the most, with those from European backgrounds suffering the least.
The study found those working in environments where reciprocity and mutual respect between the workers, residents and families had better retention rates of migrant care workers. The availability of organisational resources to support migrant care workers was also significant.
Migrant aged care workers will play an increasingly important role in the care of people living with dementia in residential aged care. The study highlights the need to ensure they receive appropriate induction, training, education and support to achieve the best outcomes for residents.
For more information on the experience of culturally and linguistically diverse nurses and midwives experiences of working in NSW healthcare settings, read this report.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association, or your local nursing or midwifery union.