1 Oct 2014

Age care 'isolating' for ethnic groups

9:00 am on 1 October 2014

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.

The Aashirwad ward is part of a BUPA care home and established after lobbying from an Indian trust.

The Aashirwad ward is part of a BUPA care home and established after lobbying from an Indian trust. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

It is lunch time on the Aashirwad ward of the David Lange Care Home in Mangere. On the menu, there is fish curry with daal and chapatti, which has been specially cooked for the ward of 15 men and women, all migrants from countries in South Asia.

The ward is multi-religious, has a range of Indian television channels and newspapers, and between them, the staff speak every language the residents do. But perhaps more importantly - they are together.

Baljit Singh Sidhu moved here from another rest home and believes it is far better. "It has more facilities, good food and good company; there was no company in the previous one. There's no comparison between that place and this place."

The ward is part of a BUPA care home and was set up after lobbying from the Bhartiya Samaj Trust.

The trust's chairperson, Jeet Suchdev, said there is nowhere near enough care home provision for people of different ethnicities.

Baljit Singh Sidhu.

Baljit Singh Sidhu enjoys good food and good company. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

Language barriers mean people struggle to explain their health problems, vegetarians have been served meat, and residents feel lonely as the only non-New Zealanders, he said.

"So that made them very depressed, very lonely. They can't communicate and they have no company, no food (they're used to). All these things together made them feel miserable and they start feeling depressed and losing their health."

BUPA says although the David Lange is their only care home with a designated ward, other homes try to provide on a more individual basis.

Aged Care Association chief executive Martin Taylor said he also knows of two places which focus on the Chinese community.

Mr Taylor said 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.

"You have to understand that if you have two or three people in a home of 50 who want a particular type of food, that's not going to happen," he said.

"But maybe the family want to bring in some food occasionally, or they may have a special event every couple of months where that sort of food will be provided, then that will be the aim that they'll endeavour to achieve."

Jyoti Dua is part of the Sukhmani Trust in Auckland, which runs activity groups for older people.

Before the election earlier this month, the 73-year-old spoke to candidates about the lack of places catering for different ethnicities and believes care home demand from migrant communities will soon boom.

"A large number of Indians entered New Zealand around the year 2000, and their parents joined them in subsequent years. Five years from now, maybe 10 years from now, there'll be a large number who will be wanting to go to a rest home, so the provision has to be created now."

BUPA said it is confident that market forces will drive provision up over the next few years as the population becomes more diverse.

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