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UC leads research in palliative care services

UC leads research in palliative care services for minority groups

December 5, 2012

Elderly people of Asian background are least likely to access palliative and hospice services in New Zealand due to language and cultural barriers and lack of information, according to the findings of a University of Canterbury (UC) project.

The study was supervised by UC health sciences researcher Kate Reid and it involved collaboration between UC postgraduate audiology student Bible Lee, Partnership Health Canterbury’s ethnic liaison Wayne Reid and members of the Korean, Chinese and Japanese communities.

The research found while the majority of the Korean, Chinese and Japanese respondents reported little understanding of palliative and allied health services available in New Zealand, many were interested in knowing more about the services.

Reid said she believed it was the first study in New Zealand where palliative care needs of Asian migrants had been assessed. Palliative care is a major issue as in the next 15 years the New Zealand population is expected to increase by almost 20 percent.

In the UC study, Korean respondents were the oldest with many aged 75 years and older. Yet the study found that only a quarter of them knew that bereavement support services were available in New Zealand. Similar findings were found for the Japanese and the Chinese groups.

Lee said the reason why elderly Asian people were under-utilising care services could be due to a set mentality of not wanting to make a fuss. So they were not actively asking for help or seeking information, but cultural and language differences played a big part.

``The New Zealand population is ageing as a whole, but I think that the Asian elderly are not as commonly talked about,” Lee said.

``Yet statistics show that by 2026, the number of Asian people aged 65 years and over will be five times as great as it was in 2006. Migrant population groups from the 1980s and 1990s - the permanent settlers - are baby boomers. They are also ageing and have real needs. The question is `how much do we know about this group and their health needs too?’ ’’ Lee said.

The study also found that perspectives associated with terminal illnesses, death and dying could also vary across different cultures. The majority of respondents strongly valued the opportunity of being able to speak in their mother tongue and being offered written information by health professionals in their native language.

``Hiring even just one or two nurses in hospices, district nursing services and nursing homes who are bilingual or multilingual would help staff and the future service users,” Lee said

The results from the study were recently presented to the fifth International Asian and Ethnic Minority Health and Wellbeing Conference and the 20th Hospice NZ Palliative Care Conference.


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