Opinions

It is time to stop saying ‘hard to reach’ and instead start ‘reaching out’

Written by: Rohini Sharma Joshi FCIH, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Manager, Trust Housing Association

Published: 19/07/2019

Illustration of 10 hands raised in the air, in various different bright colours/

Rohini talks about the current care and service needs of ethnic minority older people in Scotland.

Ethnic minority older people who arrived in Scotland and throughout the UK in the 1950s and 1960s are now ageing and need care. As they are small in numbers, their needs have mostly been ignored. But they are very frail and struggling and the services in place are not equipped to meet their needs. What’s going to happen?

Many of them, often in their late 70s or 80s, are living alone. My concern is what’s going to happen to them when they are not able to manage? Who is going to look after them?

Their current care needs are dire but they’re not being met. During my work, I see far too many cases where older people have no support and day-to-day living is a serious struggle. One such example is that of a 91-year-old man who lives in a care home. He hates it and cries to go home. His 85-year-old wife is disabled and also feels that he should be at home and looked after by their children. There is a huge cultural dilemma where parents wish to be looked after at home by their adult children – most of whom have full time jobs and a family of their own and who are unable to meet their parents’ expectations and desires.

It’s all very well to plan for the next 30 years but what happens to people who need services right now?

The biggest problem is the language barrier. There is a need for more focus on recruitment of ethnic minority carers, to meet both language and cultural requirements. We need sheltered housing and care housing for ethnic minority older people with staff who can speak their language and meet their dietary and cultural needs.

And there’s also need to consider the additional and complex needs created by the increase of dementia in the ethnic minority older population.

Older people are doing whatever they can to manage. They are just getting on with it. But I’m not sure how long they can just get on with it.

This is a generation who came to Scotland, worked hard all their lives and never planned for their older age. They made Scotland their home and they deserve equal and fair care in their older age.

It is time to stop saying they are ‘hard to reach’ and instead service providers need to start `reaching out’.

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