Background: People with dementia and their family carers need to be able to access formal services in the community to help maintain their wellbeing and independence. While knowing about and navigating one's way through service systems is difficult for most people, it is particularly difficult for people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. This study addresses a lack of literature on the use of formal services for dementia by people from CALD backgrounds by examining the experiences and perceptions of dementia caregiving within four CALD communities - Italian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic-speaking - in south western Sydney, Australia.
Methods: The study used a qualitative design and the methods included focus groups with family carers and one-to-one interviews with bilingual/bicultural community workers, bilingual general practitioners and geriatricians. A total of 121 family carers participated in 15 focus groups and interviews were held with 60 health professionals. All fieldwork was audiotaped, transcribed and subjected to thematic analysis.
Results: People from CALD communities are often unfamiliar with the concept of formal services and there may be strong cultural norms about maintaining care within the family, rather than relying on external services. CALD communities often have limited knowledge of services. There is a preference for services that will allow families to keep their relative at home, for safety as well as cultural reasons, and they are particularly reluctant to use residential care. While there is a preference for ethno-specific or multicultural services, mainstream services also need to ensure they are more flexible in providing culturally appropriate care. Positive outcomes occur when ethno-specific services work in partnership with mainstream programs. Dementia service providers need to develop a trusting relationship with their local CALD communities and promote their services in a way that is understandable and culturally acceptable to members of these communities.
Conclusions: While members of CALD communities may have difficulties accessing formal services, they will use them if they are culturally and linguistically appropriate and can meet their needs. There are a number of ways to improve service provision to CALD communities and the responsibility for this needs to be shared by a range of stakeholders.