Chinese Language Week: Dementia home taking care with its seven Chinese residents

Sapeer Mayron

1 Oct 2021

With the number of Asian people with dementia expected to triple by 2050, one specialist care home in Auckland is doing its best to look after their Chinese residents in their own language.

At Dominion Home in Mt Roskill, which specialises in dementia care, a third of their elderly residents are Chinese and don’t speak English.

Those seven residents don’t all speak the same Chinese either: with Cantonese, Mandarin, and a Shanghai dialect spoken between them.

For their daily needs, staff can use language sheets with basic phrases in Chinese transliterated into English letters.

And for more in-depth, meaningful conversation, the home relies on family and volunteers to help.

“We need to keep them engaged, we need to provide meaningful, purposeful activities,” Grover said.

“For that we rely on families. We invite families to give us a life history where we get information about what they had been doing all their lives - their jobs, their families, what their interests are.”

At Dominion Home, a third of the elderly residents with dementia are Chinese, and speak very little English.

At Dominion Home, a third of the elderly residents with dementia are Chinese, and speak very little English.
Gao says around a fifth of the staff can speak Mandarin, which means during every shift there is at least one person who can speak fluently with those residents.

The small care home doesn’t work alone either. One of their partners, Chinese Positive Aging, has a team of volunteers that call residents for a chat in their language on a regular basis.

Grover says some residents’ dementia means they don’t mind, or don’t notice whether the people they chat to understand or not.

“To be very honest, these residents really like talking to each other. And people with dementia, sometimes just talk, irrespective of whether the other person is responding,” she said.

“We don’t discourage that.”

“I wish we had more services related to talking about more than their basic needs but honestly the thing about the residents, their families are always closely associated no matter where the family is.”

During lockdown, Grover and her team organise video calls with the residents’ families twice a week.

Dominion House opened in 2015. Gao says one of her passions is educating the Chinese community about dementia. She said she worries many Asian elderly dementia diagnoses go unnoticed, leading to poorer care.

The number of people living with dementia is expected to more than double in the next 30 years, with some ethnic groups at an even greater risk.
.
The number of people living with dementia is expected to more than double in the next 30 years, with some ethnic groups at an even greater risk.
And those who do get diagnosed don’t always end up with specialist care, Gao said.

“Family members don’t get enough respect in the rest homes. The other elderly people can do everything by themselves, but those with dementia have some behaviour issues, and the staff haven’t been trained especially for dementia,” she said.

“I fear there are many Chinese that have got dementia but haven’t got the right attention,” she said.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/pou-tiaki/126537912/chinese-language-week-dementia-home-taking-care-with-its-seven-chinese-residents