ECCV’s new paper on elder abuse in care relationships highlights why it is vital to ensure carer needs are understood and supported in an ongoing capacity.

A new paper examining carer needs and the risks of elder abuse in care relationships draws on findings and learnings from ECCV’s Recognising and Respecting Carers from CALD backgrounds project, run in partnership with Carers Victoria and funded by the Victorian government.

The paper is an important work that helps understand the needs of carers in multicultural communities and the broader systemic barriers they experience. It also offers strategies and recommendations on how to identify and reach diverse carers and ensure they receive tailored support services to improve their wellbeing and reduce the risk of elder abuse.

To do this, it is important to understand how the concept of care is perceived in different cultures. Carers exist in all communities, but they are often “hidden” or unrecognised in multicultural communities. This is because many carers do not identify with the term, and their relationship is not seen as being one of “caring” in the Western sense, by either the carer or the care recipient.

In many cultures, looking after one’s relatives is seen simply as a duty, and not something for which special assistance or financial compensation should be sought. Many languages do not even have a word that translates as “carer”. Supporting carers from migrant and refugee backgrounds also requires an understanding of the additional barriers that they face in performing their roles and accessing support.

Consultations undertaken as part of the two-year project revealed that many carers from multicultural backgrounds are consumed by their carer role, to the detriment of their own needs, health and wellbeing.

There is often little concept of the importance of self-care. Many carers experience difficulty interacting socially with other people, including their families, due to the demands of their caring role and the lack of respite options to enable attendance at social activities.

Most carers who spoke to ECCV lacked any means of support. Many reported feeling burnt out and depressed. Evidence suggests that an increased level of dependence on family for daily care can result in burnout for those providing it, with a consequent risk of neglect and failure to provide appropriate care that could lead to elder abuse.

Through the project, ECCV came to appreciate how carers from different backgrounds had differing understandings of what is acceptable behaviour in Australia compared to that in their country of origin. Sometimes this included a lack of knowledge about illegal behaviours and the wide-spread perception that only physical abuse would be against the law.

Another major barrier for most carers from migrant and refugee backgrounds is the lack of knowledge about support services and how to apply for them. Many carers did not access financial or respite support that they are entitled to, with low English-language proficiency and digital literacy being the greatest barriers to accessing and navigating a complex system.

Supporting multicultural carer wellbeing requires a targeted approach to address these barriers. As ECCV and Carers Victoria have demonstrated, tailored and culturally responsive workshops and information sessions can educate and inform multicultural communities about the support that is available and how to access it, how to practise self-care, and how to reduce stress and guard against burnout. Information on these subjects improves carer wellbeing and reduces the risk of elder abuse.

Due to stigma and differences in understanding across and within cultural groups, it can be difficult to talk about issues relating to caregiving upfront in peer settings. To bring these issues into the conversation therefore takes time. Building connections at grassroots level is vital, providing support where people feel safe and comfortable and and with people they trust and know, such as community leaders and bicultural workers.

Through the project and partnerships, ECCV was able to connect with many hidden carers in different communities who had not previously been engaged. But there are still many out there without support. To reach them, a sustained commitment is required by the government, alongside robust collaboration between mainstream service providers receiving funding and multicultural organisations with expertise and connections.

Read the report here

Advocating for unpaid carers

In September, ECCV was invited to appear at a public hearing held as part of the Inquiry into the recognition of unpaid carers by the Australian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs.

This followed ECCV’s submission to the Inquiry, which was based on findings and experiences from our two-year Carers project.

The Committee heard evidence from ECCV Chair Eddie Micallef, Acting CEO Victoria Kyriakopoulos and Ageing Well Lead Hayat Doughan, who outlined the issues and barriers in identifying and supporting carers from migrant and diverse communities.

The committee is examining the effectiveness of the Carer Recognition Act 2010 and what legislative reform is needed.

Read ECCV’s submission here

This article was published in the
Spring 2023
edition of Golden Years.