+ General Country Information
+ History
+ Concept of Time
+ Family and friends
+ Gender
+ I or We Attitudes
+ Manners and Taboos
+ Spiritual care
+ Communication Style
+ Greetings
+ Language and Communication
+ Non-verbal Communication - Eye contact
+ Non-verbal Communication - Gestures
+ Non-verbal Communication - Personal Space
+ Attitudes and understanding of dementia and other health issues
+ Attitudes to end of life care
+ Attitudes to pain
+ Attitudes to residential care
+ Care information
+ Cultural Activities
+ Cultural Traits
+ Food and Diet
+ Music
+ Special Days - Christmas
+ Special Days - Easter
+ Special Days - New Year
+ Special Days - Other
+ Superstitions

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Sri Lankan

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Generalist

  • Sri Lanka is an island located in the continent of Asia. The nation lies south of India and is surrounded by the Indian Ocean.
  • Colombo is the capital city and the largest city in Sri Lanka.
  • Sri Lanka is the 122nd largest country in the world with a total area of 65,610 square kilometres (Central Intelligence Agency, n.d).
  • The population of Sri Lanka is 22.235 million (Central Intelligence Agency, 2016).
  • The major ethnic groups of Sri Lanka include: Sinhalese (74.9%), Sri Lankan Tamil (11.2%), Sri Lankan Moors (9.2%), Indian Tamil (4.2%), as well as others (0.5%) (Central Intelligence Agency, 2012).
  • The climate of Sri Lanka is tropical with monsoons.

Tips

  • Understand that a person’s country of birth does not define their culture. Whilst we are “born into culture” we are not “born with culture”. A person’s “culture” is something that is learnt from our environment and by our individual experiences. It continuously adapts to our changing circumstances throughout our lives.
  • Determine what culture or cultures your care recipient identifies with.
  • Keep in mind that the culture in metropolitan areas varies with culture in rural areas and that culture in different regions within a country may also vary significantly.
  • Learn about your care recipient’s life history, and who they identify with, to determine their individual cultural traits. Document any significant details.
  • Understand how your care recipient’s culture informs their values, behaviours, beliefs assumptions, likes, dislikes and sensitivities.

Resources

Generalist

History of Migration to Australia

  • Sri Lankan people first migrated to Australia in the late nineteenth century, where they were recruited to work in northern Queensland on the cane crops.
  • Reports indicate Sri Lankans also worked in goldfields in various states.
  • Sri Lankan independence in 1948, and the introduction of the Sinhala Only Act in 1956, meant that Sinhalese was mandated as the only official language, replacing English therefore many Tamil and Burgher people felt marginalised and began migrating to other countries such as Australia.
  • Civil unrest in Sri Lanka and an uneasy truce in 1995 meant that many Sri Lankan born people migrated to Australia as Humanitarian entrants, and by 2001 there were 53,610 Sri Lankans in Australia.
  • In recent times, the majority of Sri Lankan-born migrants have come to Australia as Skilled migrants.
  • Australia’s Sri Lankan-born community consists of three ethnic groups; the Sinhalese, Tamil and the Burghers.
  • There is a caste system amongst Tamil and Sinhalese communities in Sri Lanka. In Australia, besides marriage arrangements, the caste system is generally not as influential in Australia.

History of Sri Lanka

  • Refer to History Resources

Tips

  • Determine exactly where your care recipient was born and where they lived. For example; was your care recipient born in Australia, or did they migrate to Australia? If they migrated, how and why did your care recipient migrate to Australia? What experiences and associations do they have of their home country? If they have lived in other countries; where have they lived? How long did they spend in other countries and what did they do whilst they were there?
  • Be aware and sensitive to any stress that may have been experienced as a result of their history (this may include; family separation, homesickness, conflict, depression and isolation).
  • The knowledge of a person’s history may assist with a better understanding of the care recipient as well as any associated psychological issues resulting from their past.
  • Understand how your care recipient’s culture informs their values, behaviours, beliefs assumptions, likes, dislikes and sensitivities and document any significant details.

Resources

Generalist

  • Sri Lankans are defined as having a “collectivist” culture.
  • This means that Sri Lankans act primarily in the interests of the group (The Hofstede Centre).
  • Sri Lanka scores a 35 on the “Individualism versus Collectivism Index (IDV)” (The Hofsteded Centre).
  • The index scale ranges from 0-100, with 50 as a mid-level. The low numbers indicate “collectivist” cultures, and high numbers indicate “individualist” cultures.

Tips

  • Identify and document if your care recipient is an “individualist” with an “I” attitude of self and immediate family, or a “collectivist” with a “we” or group attitude, or if they have both “collectivist” and “individualist” traits.
  • Allow for a “collectivist” person to feel the comfort of doing most things in a group setting and for an “individualist” person to have more opportunities for themselves.

Resources

Generalist

In Sri Lanka

  • The major religious affiliations in Sri Lanka include: Buddhist (70.2%), Hindu (12.6%), Muslim (9.7%), Roman Catholic (6.1%), Christian (1.3%) and a small amount of other religious affiliations (0.05%), (Central Intelligence Agency, 2012).

In Australia

  • Sri Lankan people in Australia are predominantly Buddhist, or of Muslim, Hindu, or Christian religious affiliation (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011). There are also Sri Lankan-born Australians who indicated that they do not have a religious affiliation.

Religions of different communities

  • Most Sinhalese are Theraveda Buddhists.
  • Most Tamils are Hindu, although some may be Muslim or Christian (usually Catholic).
  • Sri Lankan Moors are predominantly Muslim.
  • Burghers are predominantly Christian.
  • Buddhism and Hinduism are the main religions within Sri Lanka and both have considerable influences on political, cultural, and social life.

Key points about Buddhism

  • Buddhist people typically believe in reincarnation and the afterlife. It is believed that people learn lessons during each life and that they should have better conduct in each life until they reach what is known as “Nirvana.”

Five key principles of Buddhism

  • Forbid killing or harming any living things.
  • To not steal or take anything that is not given freely.
  • Control sexual desire.
  • Never lie.
  • Prohibit alcoholic beverages or the use of drugs.

Key points of Hinduism

  • There are many deities or gods within the Hindu religion, including; Ganesh, Shiva, Vishnu, and Parvat and Kali. These are aspects of Brahman – “the eternal source of everything”.

General

  • Different cultures and religions have different expectations of care in regards to toileting, dressing and feeding.
  • Every culture and religion vary greatly in spiritual needs and this may impact on the acceptability of certain treatments and medications. Therefore, it is paramount to identify the care recipient’s religion and cultural background to appropriately address the supports and services required.
  • For further information, refer to Spiritual care resources.

Tips

  • Accept and respect that customs, religious and spiritual beliefs vary from one culture to another and that the beliefs of your care recipient may significantly differ to your own beliefs.
  • Utilise resources and attend training sessions to increase your own knowledge about different religious and spiritual beliefs.
  • It is useful to ask care recipients a range of questions such as; ‘what helps you cope in difficult times’ and ‘what is important to you’ to determine ways to enhance their care.
  • Be aware of the significance of spiritual needs to your care recipient. Identify and document their religious beliefs and spiritual needs such as; any special requirements regarding food, personal care, linguistic needs or religious impacts towards treatments and/or medication.
  • Identify and provide access to relevant religious literature, radio, TV, live stream services, DVDs and CDs.
  • Support care recipients to maintain religious networks and religious representation and facilitate outings to places of worship.
  • Acknowledge and observe days of religious significance to your care recipients in a culturally appropriate manner.

Resources

Generalist

  • Priority to the immediate family is most common amongst Sri Lankans.
  • Across Sri Lankan ethnic and caste groups, the nuclear family (including husband, wife and unmarried children) is considered the most important social unit.
  • In the event that several families or generations live together, wives will have their own cooking place, to cook food for her own husband as a means of individuality of the family unit.
  • The kindred (known as ‘pavula’) of an individual are often the people with whom it is possible to eat with or marry.

Kinship system

  • Family marriages, such as the requirement to marry a second cousin, (the daughter of the father’s sister or mother’s brother’s, or vice versa) is an old fashioned Sri Lankan kinship system. This system was prevalent in the feudal times to keep property in the family and to make sure that in old age, the children and their spouses were closer to their parents in law. This arrangement would also guarantee that a blood relative would care for the parents, rather than an outsider.
  • There are no “Deega” and “Binna” marriages any more. It is a name used to define if the bride goes to the husband’s house, or the bridegroom settles in the wife’s house. 
  • This form of marriage now generally only takes place on the rare occasion when love comes into play.

Tips

  • Be aware and sensitive to the fact that some people may have become separated from family for a range of reasons including; Stolen Generations, war, conflict, disaster or migration.
  • Families and friends from different cultures will have a different understanding of dementia and their expectation of care for their loved one may vary significantly.
  • Provide communication and information in accordance with their language and literacy level and facilitate all achievable care expectations.
  • Gain an understanding of the dynamics of your care recipient’s family and friends and engage with them whenever required/needed.
  • Ensure that roles in decision-making about care of the person with dementia have been clearly established and documented.
  • Research indicates that carers of people living with dementia experience greater strain and distress than carers of other people.
  • It is important to be sensitive to the feelings of shame and guilt that family members and friends may be experiencing.

“Family and friends” resources

  • A range of information to help support family and friends is available in the “Family and friends, resources” section below.
  • A range of health information helpsheets in various Sri Lankan languages are available in the “Language and communication, resources” section of this app.

Resources

Generalist

  • Greetings vary depending on the Sri Lankan ethnic group, although foreigners are not expected to know the difference.
  • Older Sri Lankans may use the greeting “Namaste” with their palms pressed together.
  • Younger Sri Lankans often use a soft handshake in business situations.
  • A common informal greeting is "kuhomadu" and it means ‘how do you do’?
  • Hugs and kisses as a greeting are generally not appropriate and should therefore be avoided.
  • It is best to see if a woman extends her hand before shaking her hand, as many women will not have physical contact in public with men who they are not related to.
  • It is common within Muslim culture for females to be represented by a male relative such as a husband, father, or a brother. In this instance, the male should be greeted first, and then the female.

Sinhalese

  • The greeting “Ayubown” is used with hands pressed together at chest level. This means ‘may you be blessed with a long life’.
  • Given that the majority of the Sri Lankan population are Sinhalese, this is the most common greeting.

Tamils

  • Greet with “Wanakkam”.
  • The greeting has the same meeting as the Sinhalese greeting, ‘may you be blessed with a long life’.
  • This greeting is also common throughout Sri Lanka.

Muslims

  • Greet with “Asalam Wallekkum”.

Naming Conventions

  • Many Sinhalese and Tamils have two names, a traditional name and a modified name for use in western cultures such as Australia.
  • Titles, such as Mr, Mrs are important, especially when referring to elderly Sri Lankan people.
  • Names of the Sri Lankan’s are long, and they provide an idea of the person’s ancestors and the village one lived in.
  • A Sri Lankan persons’ first name should only be used on its own if you have been invited to use it.
  • It is best to ask the person how he or she prefers to be addressed. For example, some people prefer to be called Uncle or Brother, depending on the age of the person who will be caring for the patient.

Sinhalese names

  • The first name is the House or Tribe name and always ends in “Ge.” It may sometimes be referred to as the ‘Ge name’ and means ‘of’, however it is not commonly used in Australia.
  • The second name is the individual’s given name. It is common for an initial to be used to indicate their first name rather than writing the whole name.
  • The last name, is the person’s surname. Women generally take their husband’s surname, however they will keep their own ‘Ge name.’

Tamil names                                                                                 

  • The first name is their surname (father’s name), and their own individual name is second.
  • Tamil women often take their husband’s first name as their surname on marriage.

Tips

  • Start building trust and rapport from the first time you meet your care recipient. Ensure you correctly pronounce their name. Smile and speak clearly. Be respectful and make sure the care recipient understands you.
  • Establish and document how your care recipient prefers to be greeted. Take into account; formality, titles, preferred name(s), any different greeting expectations from different genders or from people from a different generation, and the way(s) they like and dislike to be greeted. 
  • Understand that a person with severe dementia will think that each time they see you during the day is for the first time. Therefore ensure that you greet them in an appropriate, friendly and caring manner each time you meet.

Language and Communication resources

  • Translating and Interpreter contact details and other relevant information is available in the "Links, Translating and Interpreting" section. 

Advice and Support

  • Seek advice and support from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) if required – phone 1800 699 799.

Resources

Generalist

  • Saving face is considered extremely important. Publicly criticising another person or putting them in an awkward position is against social norms.
  • Confrontation is generally avoided and Sri Lankans often speak in an indirect manner.
  • Sri Lankan people often tell the listener what they want to hear, as a means of politeness. Patience and observing non-verbal actions that accompany communication can help to understand what the person is trying to communicate.
  • Long pauses and avoidance of eye contact may suggest that someone does not wish to continue the conversation.

Topics of conversation

  • Sri Lankan people take great pride in their country and its achievement, in particular the Sri Lankan cricket team.
  • It is best to avoid discussions regarding politics. Death is also a sensitive topic, as is obesity and weight. These topics are best avoided.

Tips

Care recipient

  • Identify the communication style of your care recipient.
  • Be aware that communication styles vary from one culture to another.
  • Realise that physical, sensory, psychological and social issues can impact on the ability to communicate effectively. Make a note of any that are relevant to your care recipient.

Care worker

  • To ensure that the care recipient can understand you avoid speaking too quickly or using slang, acronyms or jargon. Also try not to give too much information at one time.
  • Be aware not to use patronising speech or a demeaning tone as this can lead to a communication breakdown.
  • Remember than non-verbal communication such as body language is just as important as verbal communication. Ensure that your tone matches your body language to avoid miscommunication.
  • Be kind and caring in your communication with the care recipient. Remember the person with dementia has a lifetime of experiences and is a person with feelings, even though may have lost the capacity to think or behave like they used to.

Language and Communication resources

  • Translating and Interpreter contact details and other relevant information is available in the "Links, Translating and Interpreting" section. 

Advice and Support

  • Seek advice and support from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) if required – phone 1800 699 799.

Resources

Generalist

  • Direct eye contact is commonly used by Sri Lankans.
  • Indirect eye contact is used by some Sri Lankans in some instances. For example; Sri Lankan Muslims of the opposite sex will generally avoid direct eye contact and Sri Lankan Australians may use indirect eye contact during conversations when they feel the need to show respect.

Tips

  • Determine and document if the care recipient prefers direct or indirect eye contact and if there are any different expectations from different genders or from people from a different generation.

Resources

Generalist

  • Shoes are generally removed prior to entering places of worship, homes, some shops and businesses. A good indication of whether shoes should be removed prior to entering a building is if there is an arrangement of shoes near the door.
  • People summon others by extending an arm and making a scratching motion with their fingers with their palm facing down.
  • The right hand is usually used for eating, giving and receiving objects and shaking hands, as the left hand is considered unclean.
  • A head wobble is common in Sri Lanka. This can mean ‘yes’ and may also mean ‘no’. The angle and expression as well as the speed of the wobble can help determine whether the person using this gesture means ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
  • Generally Asians prefer minimal or no physical contact. Crossing the legs and pointing the foot at others is considered insulting.

Tips

  • Any gestures you use need to be respectful to the person with dementia.
  • Body language can provide important clues and increased understanding for both the carer and the care recipient. However many gestures have different meanings in different cultures therefore take care to ensure there is no miscommunication.
  • Document any gestures that the care recipient prefers to use or any gestures they find offensive.
  • Determine if the care recipient has expectations from different genders or from people from a different generation in relation to the use of touch. For example; if they find it appropriate/comforting for someone to hold their hand when they are upset or in pain.

Resources

Generalist

  • An arm’s length of personal space is fairly common for Sri Lankans in formal situations.
  • Extra space is often used when in conversation with members of the opposite sex.
  • Holding hands, touching the arm, or putting arms around shoulders, by members of the same sex is generally acceptable in informal situations with people of familiarity.
  • It is generally not acceptable for members of the opposite sex to touch in public, however, younger Sri Lankan people may be more liberal in their approach to personal space.

Tips

  • Determine and document how the care recipient feels about their personal space and if there are any different expectations from different genders or from people from a different generation.
  • Allow for a “collectivist” person (with a “we” or group attitude) to feel the comfort of doing most things in the space with others (group settings) and for an “individualist” person (with an “I” attitude of self and immediate family) to have opportunities to have personal space for themselves.

Resources

Generalist

  • Sri Lankan people are generally not punctual. Instead, they tend to practice flexibility with time.
  • Reasonable lateness is usually considered acceptable.
  • In a business setting people may be more likely to be punctual.
  • It is common for South Asians to start their day later and accordingly eat meals later as well.

Tips

  • Determine and document how the care recipient and the family view “the concept of time”. For example; do they like to be punctual? Do they expect others to be punctual?
  • Ensure the care recipient's concept of time does not adversely impact on meal times, activities and other scheduled events.
  • Be mindful that shaming and blaming someone for being late can cause feelings of guilt and low self-esteem. Instead, use positive communication. For example; you might ask “Would a different time would be more suitable”?

Resources

Generalist

  • Often Sri Lankans, particularly Muslims, are represented by a male relative such as their husband, father or brother.
  • The Gender of the person looking after the care recipient may matter to some Sri Lankans.
  • Servants are common in Sri Lanka, therefore, it is important to give sufficient information to the care recipient that the person who is looking after them is well trained and is not just their servant.

Global Gender Gap Index 2016 rankings

  • Sri Lanka ranked 100th on a global index measuring gender equality out of 144 countries. (World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2016).

Marriage and family

  • Sri Lanka is governed predominately by The General Law (civil law), however, three parallel systems of law can also apply, including; Islamic, Kandyan, Sinhala and Thesavalamai law.
  • Under civil law, the legal age of marriage is 18 years for men and women. However, personal laws of certain communities allow younger marriages with the consent of their parents.
  • Muslim Personal Law does not state a minimum age for marriage.
  • Parental authority is not equal. Specifically, fathers are considered the natural guardians of the children whilst mothers are viewed as custodians and are generally responsible for the daily activities for raising the children.
  • A recent principle of the ‘best interests of the child’ has been introduced to reduce discrimination against women.

Inheritance

  • Inheritance rights of women depend on the legal system. For example, under civil law a widow inherits half of the estate and the other half is shared among descendants which includes sons and daughters.
  • Under Islamic, Kandyan and Tamil law, inheritance rights vary.

Tips

  • For many people with dementia the gender of the care workers is important, particularly in sensitive situations. Determine and document if they have any preferences, concerns or expectations regarding care provided by someone of a different gender.
  • Accept and respect that male-female roles in families may vary significantly among different cultures.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersexed (LGBTI) people with dementia

  • Don’t assume the gender preference of the person with dementia.
  • Recognise that even those that have children may not be completely heterosexual and understand that it could take some time for a care recipient to gain enough trust to share personal information about their gender preference.
  • Begin by evaluating yourself and any assumptions, phobias, biases or beliefs that you might hold internally.
  • Utilise resources and attend training sessions to increase your own knowledge about LGBTI people.
  • Understand the importance of your first and immediate reaction or response. Be aware of your own reactions - not only what you think, but also be aware of what you say and what body language you use.
  • Most LGBTI people have experienced rejection, stigma, discrimination and abuse and therefore have a fear of receiving inadequate treatment, being denied services or facing further discrimination or prejudice. It is vitally important to create a non-judgmental open and caring atmosphere free from discrimination. Confidentiality is also a vital aspect of care for LGBTI care recipients.
  • Be careful with the terminology you use to the care recipient and their partners.
  • Provide partners of LGBTI care recipients with the same respect and privileges that you would give to a spouse or relative.      

Resources

Generalist

  • Sri Lanka is one of the most rapidly-ageing countries in the world with a third of Sri Lanka’s population predicted to be aged 60 and over by the year 2050.
  • It has been estimated that there are about 150,000 Sri Lankans with dementia and this number is expected to rise to about 500,000 by the year 2050 unless there is a cure.

World Alzheimer’s Day

  • Alzheimer associations around the world unite for World Alzheimer’s Day on the 21st of September each year, to help make a difference for people with dementia and their families and carers worldwide.

Attitudes to Disability and Mental Illness

  • People with a disability are often perceived negatively, for example; being considered bad luck as a result of some actions in their past life.
  • People with disabilities often have trouble accessing education and employment opportunities in Sri Lanka.
  • Sri Lankan-born people with a disability in Australia are generally cared for and protected by family and some community members.
  • A common belief amongst some Asian cultures is that suffering is just a part of life. This can lead to a delay in seeking medical treatment and diagnosis.

Tips

  • The amount of understanding and acceptance of dementia may vary significantly among different cultures, families and individuals. Determine the understanding of dementia of the care recipient and their family, if they accept dementia and if stigma is associated.
  • Provide information to the care recipient and their family according to their language preference and literacy level.
  • Ensure that people with dementia and their families are aware of dementia information and of support services available.

Dementia resources

  • A wide range of information is available in the Attitudes and understanding of dementia disability and illness, resources section below.
  • Contact details for Alzheimer’s Australia offices are available in the “Links, Alzheimer’s Australia offices” section of this app.

Advice and Support

  • Seek advice and support from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) if required – phone 1800 699 799.

Resources

Generalist

  • Sri Lankan elderly generally have English proficiency and as such may not have the communication barrier that elderly people of other migrant groups have.
  • Sri Lankan people may be familiar with residential care services as similar services are provided by the government in Sri Lanka.

Tips

  • The meaning or value of residential or community care may vary greatly among cultures.
  • Be aware that many people will not want to hear about or talk about residential care until crisis point.
  • Understand that families and friends from different cultures will have different expectations for the care of people, particularly in regards to toileting, dressing, feeding and other self-help skills.
  • Allow the care recipient and their family to make choices to suit the individual’s care needs.
  • Ask care recipients questions about what can be done to achieve quality of life and help them have meaningful lives that enable them to pursue their cultural interests and passions in accordance with any frailty, disability or cognitive impairment.
  • Understand and facilitate all achievable care expectations of the care recipient and their family.

Resources

Generalist

  • Sri Lankan people generally use western medicine, often in conjunction with more traditional remedies.
  • Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of Sri Lanka. It includes; herbal medicines, nutrition, aromatherapy, massage and meditation, to promote balance between the mind and the body.
  • Many Asian cultures believe it is culturally important to behave in a dignified manner and that individuals should not draw attention to themselves, despite feeling pain or sadness.
  • People may also be reluctant to make demands of health care professionals as they are regarded as being of high status, and therefore should not be questioned or bothered with complaints.
  • Buddhists are often stoic when faced with pain, as a way to demonstrate strong self-conduct.
  • There may be a certain degree of Stoicism for minor pains, but many Sri Lankans fear major pain.
  • Some Sri Lankans may, however, be quite worried about the side effects of their medications used to counteract pain.
  • It is important to note that Sri Lankans who are vegetarians (such as Hindus and Buddhists) may wish to avoid medications that are derived from animals.
  • Pain behaviour studies suggest there is a need to be cautious of ethnic or cultural stereotypes. Therefore, even though there are findings of general cultural differences, it is considered very important to evaluate the pain of each person individually.
  • Clinical recommendations regarding pain treatment are available in the “Attitudes to pain Resources” section of this app.

Tips

  • Research indicates that pain and discomfort are frequently under reported and under treated amongst people with dementia.
  • Ensure care recipients and their family understand pain relief medication and treatment options by providing information in their preferred language and in accordance with their language ability.
  • Religion and culture may influence your care recipients pain experience including; their pain expression, pain language, remedies for pain, social roles and expectations and perceptions of the medical care system.
  • Understand that for some religious or spiritual beliefs, fate and/or karma may mean that your care recipient also believes their illness and pain are caused by a higher power.
  • Care recipients may feel it is important to accept their pain in order to demonstrate their religious / spiritual faith. This may also impact their request for pain medication and treatment.
  • Identify and support the cultural and religious impact on the acceptability of certain treatments and medications.
  • Identify, respect and document how your care recipient and their family view and express pain.
  • Pay particular attention to verbal expressions of pain during later stages of dementia and ensure adequate treatment is provided.

Resources

Generalist

  • The youngest son traditionally has responsibility to care for his parents.
  • Sri Lankans often prefer to die at home and family and friends are particularly crucial towards the end of a person’s life.
  • Death is considered a sensitive subject to many Sri Lankans.  Cards, words and silence are the ways that sorrow is usually expressed. No gifts are given.

Theravada Buddhists

  • Monks are usually invited to the home to chant the rituals, and also to remind the person dying to acknowledge all the good memories that have happened in their life.
  • Forgiveness may be requested by family or friends that have done wrong to the dying person.
  • Equally, the person may wish to confess for past wrongdoing, or recite a purification prayer. In preparation for their death a person may give away their belongings and donate items to charity. This comes from the belief of karma, and that it may be of benefit in the future life.
  • Relatives, friends and neighbours prepare food, clothes and items, which they show to the dying person for approval. The approved items are then given to a monk when the person dies, and it is believed that these items will reach the deceased person when they pray.
  • To create a positive environment for a person with these Buddhist beliefs, it can be helpful to place a statue of Buddha where the person can see it, and play recordings of monks chanting. Family may wish to be present at the time of death of their loved one, as it is considered lucky.
  • Usually a simple meal is provided to those who attend the funeral at the house of the deceased.
  • Theravada Buddhists do not generally have specialist requirements regarding the handling of the deceased. They usually do not oppose autopsy and organ donation is generally considered a commendable deed. However, it is always important to treat people as individuals, rather than make assumptions about their wishes.

Hinduism

  • Hindus believe in reincarnation and that the soul never dies.
  • The deceased will be reborn in another form based on the Karma that the person performed during their life on earth.
  • Following the death, the body is traditionally laid on the ground with their head pointed to the south. The body is then rubbed with sacred items such as; sandalwood paste, holy ashes, basil leaves and water from the River Ganges. Holy scripture from the holy Bhagavad-Gita or Siva Puranas are recited.
  • The body receives minimal contact, in order to maintain purity.
  • It is customary for the body to be cremated within 24 hours following the death. Cremation longer than this period is believed to jeopardise purity and it also believed to hinder the passage to the afterlife.
  • Funerals are significant within the Hindu religion and they are believed to be the final ritual of life.

Tips

  • Understand that attitudes to end of life care, death and dying are diverse and may include a range of factors such as cultural and religious beliefs.
  • Be aware that the acceptance of certain treatments and medications are likely to be impacted upon by cultural and religious factors.
  • Identify and support “end of life choices” of care recipients and their family. Note: these are formally known as “Advanced Care Directives” or “Advanced Care Planning” depending on the state or territory in Australia that you are in. Ensure their choices are documented and strictly followed.
  • Ensure the linguistic needs of care recipients are addressed in end of life religious and spiritual support.
  • Ensure family members have access to appropriate resources and support in their preferred language and in accordance with their language ability.

Resources

Generalist

  • Politeness and manners are of great importance to Sri Lankans.
  • Lewd behaviour, such as public displays of affection, are considered inappropriate.
  • Many Sri Lankans consider it taboo to move objects with your shoes.
  • Touching Sri Lankans should be avoided. When this is necessary, discuss with the person first.
  • It is considered extremely disrespectful to touch or sit on any image of the Buddha.

The following points are particularly relevant for Sri Lankan Buddhists:

  • Pointing your feet towards another person is rude.
  • The head is considered sacred, as it is spiritually the highest part of the body. Care should be taken not to touch the head of another person. When touch is necessary, this should be discussed with the person first.
  • It is respectful to use both hands when giving or receiving an object, particularly with older people.

Tips

  • “Manners” and “taboo” expectations and beliefs may vary greatly among cultures resulting in differing emotions and behaviours in your care recipient.
  • Be aware of your own beliefs and expectations of “manners” and “taboo” beliefs and how these may differ to those of your care recipient.
  • Be aware of judging other people's behaviour, expectations and beliefs according to the standards of your own culture.
  • Be aware that the care recipient may judge your behaviour according to the standard of their own culture.
  • It is important to recognise, accept and document individual interpretations of “manners” and “taboo” expectations and beliefs of your care recipient and their family.

Resources

Generalist

  • Superstitious beliefs are still common amongst poorer Sri Lankans and in Sri Lankan villages. 
  • Superstitions followed by some Sri Lankans include the following:

Horoscopes

  • Horoscopes are still compared prior to marriages, mostly if the marriage is arranged by a go-between. However, love marriages are quite common now amongst the present generation.

Sinhalese superstitions

  • There are some superstitions surrounding who a person encounters when they are on a journey. For example, it is considered lucky to come across someone that is carrying water, milk or white flowers. However it may be considered unlucky to meet others such as those with shaven heads or loose hair.

Superstitions surrounding death

  • Death is thought to be indicated by different signs such as the following; the household dog digging the ground, the call of a black crane flying over the house, if the house is visited by magpies, or if the magpie calls from a tree at the front of the house.
  • Some believe a patient may not recover from illness, if whilst visiting an Ayurvedic physician the person continues to scratch their head or dig their toe into the ground.
  • The dead should not be buried or cremated on a Tuesday as doing so may have fatal consequences for the surviving members of the family.

Superstitions surrounding  visits

  • Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays may be considered bad for visiting.

Tips

  • Superstitions may be considered as old wives’ tales, family traditions or have a significant meaning and be taken seriously.
  • Be aware of your own beliefs and how these may differ to those of your care recipient.
  • Be aware of judging other people's superstitious beliefs according to the standards of your own culture.
  • Be aware that the care recipient may judge your beliefs according to the standard of their own culture.
  • It is important to recognise, accept and document individual interpretations of superstitious beliefs.

Resources

Generalist

  • Sri Lankans love to eat hot food, with extra chillies.
  • Rice is a main food in the Sri Lankan diet and it accompanies most meals.
  • Generally, meals also consist of small amounts of meat and pulses.
  • Curry (with rice) is commonly eaten for lunch and dinner.
  • Many elderly prefer lighter meals at night, whereas younger working age Sri Lankans prefer to eat their main meal at night.
  • The different religions in Sri Lanka strongly influence food choices made. Some examples include the following:

Sri Lankan Buddhists

  • Some Buddhists follow strict food guidelines that may include; eating vegetarian meals only (for some this may include eggs or fish), some may eat certain types of meat only (usually not beef), cultivating, cooking and storing their own food, and reliance on offerings of food donations (known as alms).

Sri Lankan Hindus

  • Food is considered to be God (or Braham).
  • Animals are believed to have spiritual awareness and therefore they are not eaten.
  • Hindus may also avoid eating foods that may have caused pain to animals during their manufacture.
  • Protein sources usually come from dairy and pulses.
  • Dairy products such as milk, butter and yoghurt are often considered to enhance spiritual purity and may be eaten regularly.

Sri Lankan Muslims

  • The Quran (religious text of Islam) forbids Muslims from consuming alcohol, blood, carrion, pork, and meat that is not halal, (this means “permitted”, or more specifically, food that has been slaughtered and blessed according the Islamic principles).

Dining Etiquette

  • Sri Lankan people often begin their day late, so they commonly do not eat their evening meal until around 8pm.
  • There may be a seating protocol, so it is best to wait to be told where to sit.
  • You may be invited to wash your hands prior to the meal and it is considered polite to take up this offer.
  • It is also polite to try each of the different foods offered.
  • Always use the right hand to eat, as the left hand is considered unclean.
  • Some locals (particularly those from regional areas) use their hands to eat most of their food, along with spoons for food such as soup.
  • Naan bread or balls of rice can be used to scoop food off the plate.
  • Elbows should be kept off the table.
  • Second servings may be offered or served. If you do not want more food, leave some on the plate to show that you are full and an empty plate indicates you are still hungry.
  • Most socialising occurs during the meal so people commonly leave shortly after the meal is finished.                                                                                                    

Tips

  • Food is an important aspect of cultural identity, therefore it is important to identify food preferences, likes and dislikes including eating habits, meal times, preferred setting, preferred eating utensils etc.
  • Identify and facilitate cultural food when possible and ensure the impact of religion on food services is documented, adhered to and regularly reviewed.
  • Provide menu choices and food services information in the preferred language of care recipients, or with pictures if the person has difficulty reading. 
  • Consider alternative ways to facilitate culturally appropriate food such as; obtaining recipes from family/friends, specific meal delivery services, community groups, seniors’ clubs, or and/or other clubs.
  • Ensure that the care recipient is given food choices throughout all stages of dementia.

Food and diet resources

  • A wide range of information (including religious food requirements, nutrition information and recipes) is available in the “Food and diet resources” section below.

Advice and Support

  • Seek advice and support from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) if required – phone 1800 699 799.

Resources

Generalist

  • A person-centred care approach helps organisations provide accessible, responsive and flexible services that meet the diverse needs and preferences of people living with dementia in our community. 
  • Many people with dementia want to remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible, and rely on the community care system to help them achieve this.

Health Beliefs and Practices

  • Western medicine and traditional medicines are practised, sometimes in conjunction with one another.
  • Ayurveda is a traditional system of medicine practised in ancient Sri Lanka and includes; a range of herbal
    medicines, nutrition, aromatherapy, massage and meditation, to create balance between the
    body and the mind.
  • Care providers should be aware that vitamin D deficiency is a common problem, and Asian women in particular are of high risk for osteoporosis.

Tips

  • Identify and document the care needs of your care recipient and continuously re-evaluate how their dementia progression affects their care needs.
  • Make every effort to understand a dementia behaviour before attempting to manage it, as you will often discover that what lies behind it is a genuine attempt to communicate an unmet need.  

Care information resources

  • A wide range of information is available (e.g. personal hygiene, sleeping, incontinence etc.) in the “Care information, resources” below.
  • Advice and Support - Seek advice and support from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) if required – phone 1800 699 799.
  • Employee/employer resources - A range of information is available under “Links – Other useful weblinks”.

Resources

Generalist

Hierarchy

  • Buddhist and Hindu religions, and the caste system influence a hierarchical culture in Sri Lanka. This involves all relationships, such as within families and the workplace.
  • Sri Lankan people are mindful of social order and status.
  • In the home setting, the father, or oldest male within the household, is considered the head of the family.
  • In the workplace, the boss/owner of the business is seen as the person with the greatest responsibility.

Face

  • Face, or personal dignity, is considered highly important in Sri Lankan culture.
  • Face can be lost or gained, depending on the behaviour of the person.
  • Public humiliation, or criticism, can lead to the loss of face for both people involved, therefore Sri Lankan people are cautious of the loss of face for themselves and the loss of face of others.
  • Face can also impact decision making. For example; a Sri Lankan person may not want to make a decision as it may lead to failure and a loss of face. Similarly, if the response to a question is ‘no’ it may lead to a loss of face, so instead a Sri Lankan may prefer to be vague in their answer.

Cultural traits of Sri Lankan's in Australia

  • The Burghers, Christian Sinhalese, and Tamils who migrated to Australia during the 60s and 70s tend to be westernised.
  • Burghers are distinctly European in their cultural traits and physical features such as; fairer skin, their facial features and their height.
  • Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils that came to Australia after the 70s, tend to have retained their traditions and identity whilst integrating in Australian society and their ethnic language and culture is often taught to the younger generation.
  • A caste system may exist amongst some of the Tamil and Sinhalese community in Australia, however this mostly only comes into play when it comes to marriage arrangements.
  • The nuclear family unit is considered most important, even in the event when the extended family lives in the same home.
  • Sri Lankan-born males generally dress in the western style (trousers and a shirt) by day and pyjamas or a sarong at night, however many Sri Lankan-born females often prefer to dress in more traditional clothes such as a “sari” or “saree” worn as a skirt (achieved by wrapping the material around the waist, with the end draped over one shoulder and tucked into the skirt). Some women may prefer a comfortable wrap, called a “lungi”, rather than a saree.
  • The cow is thought of as a sacred animal by Hindu Sri Lankans.
  • Similarly, the elephant is considered significant by Buddhist Sri Lankans.
  • Some local Sri Lankans chew “beetle nut” (nut of an Areca palm) and then spit out the liquid produced by chewing.
  • Clearing the throat, spitting in public and blowing the nose without a tissue are common practices in some regions of Sri Lanka.

Tips

  • Everyone has “culture”. This includes a number of factors such as ethnicity, identity, age, gender, education, sexual orientation, ability/disability, values, beliefs, attitudes etc.
  • Recognise your own cultural traits and influences and be mindful not to judge other people’s behaviour and beliefs according to the standard of your own culture.
  • Be aware that your care recipient may judge your behaviour and beliefs according to the standard of their own culture.
  • Your care recipient may be “similar to others” but “no two people are the same” so take care not to generalise or make assumptions about them. Gain general cultural information from resources to assist with conversations to allow you to identify your care recipient’s individual cultural traits.
  • Understand and document how your care recipient’s individual cultural traits impact their care needs.
  • Increase your knowledge about different cultural practices and issues through resources, cultural background information sessions and/or cultural awareness training.

Cultural Traits resources

  • Find information (such as guides and cultural profiles created by other organisations) in the “Cultural Traits, resources” section below.
  • You will also find information including; links to community contacts, cultural profiles, useful weblinks etc. in the “Links” section of the app.

Resources

Generalist

  • Easter is celebrated by Sri Lankans.
  • The date of Easter varies, as it falls on the Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or after March 21. Easter is therefore usually observed between late March and late April.
  • In Sri Lanka, Good Friday is a public holiday.
  • Easter marks the warmest month of the year in Sri Lanka and it is also school holidays.
  • Festivities in Sri Lanka include a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ.

Tips

  • Understand the importance of Easter to your care recipient and accept and respect that customs and beliefs about Easter are different from culture to culture.
  • Identify, document and support any spiritual/religious needs of your care recipients.
  • Identify, document and facilitate any dietary requirements.

Resources

Generalist

  • Christmas is celebrated by Sri Lankans. The Christmas season starts on the 1st December, however major celebrations are held on the 25th December.
  • Sri Lanka is predominantly a Buddhist country, however Christmas is a public holiday shared by all.
  • Christian Sri Lankans (mostly Catholics) begin celebrating the Christmas season with firecrackers at dawn on the 1st of December.
  • Christians commonly attend midnight Mass services.
  • Streets and shopping centres are decorated with Christmas trees.
  • People invite Christians and non-Christians to Christmas parties on Christmas day (25th December) where people share cake, wine and lavish delicacies.
  • Sri Lankans call Father Christmas ‘Naththal Seeya’.
  • In Sinhalese, Merry Christmas is ‘Suba Naththalak Wewa’.

Tips

  • Understand the importance of Christmas to your care recipient and accept and respect that customs and beliefs about Christmas are different from culture to culture.
  • Identify, document and support any spiritual/religious needs of your care recipients.
  • Identify, document and facilitate any dietary requirements.

Resources

Generalist

  • New Year is celebrated by Sri Lankans.
  • The Tamil New Year Festival is generally observed on the 14th of April, according to the Gregorian calendar. 
  • The Sinhalese and Hindu New Year (or ‘Aluth Avurudhu’) usually falls on April 13th or 14th every year (solar calendar).

Tamil New Year

  • The Tamil New Year Festival, which marks the start of the New Year and end of harvest, is a lengthy holiday which includes feasting on traditional delicacies such as ‘kokis’ (a deep fried crispy sweet).
  • Celebrations also include firecrackers and a Midnight Mass service.
  • Tamil New Year (or Puthandu) is celebrated in the month of Chitterai (the first month in the Tamil Solar calendar).
  • Tamil households partake in the tradition of ‘kanni’ which translates to ‘auspicious sight’. This tradition involves the preparation of a tray with three different fruits (such as mango, banana and jackfruit) as well as other items including; nuts, leaves, gold or silver jewellery. The tray is placed where it will be viewed first thing in the morning. It is thought that the auspicious sight will bring an auspicious and fulfilling year.
  • After the ‘kanni’ tradition, people may take a bath to cleanse themselves, and then visit temples for blessings.
  • People decorate their houses with colourful ‘kolams’ which are a beautiful type of drawing, often done with rice flour or chalk. Often within the centre of the ‘kolam’ is a lamp known as the ‘kuthuvillakku’. It is believed that the light of the lamp with chase away all darkness.
  • Another tradition of Tamil New Year (Puthandu) is for people to gather and sit together and for the most elderly person to read out the Panchangam (or almanac). This is the Hindu calendar which includes dates of significance as well as astrological events.
  • Sri Lankan Tamils also observe New Year with a tradition known as ‘Kai-vishesham’ where elders give some money to younger people as a mark of blessing.
  • People may also take ‘the maruthu-neer’ (herbal bath) and observe ‘arpudu’ which is the first turnover of the field in preparation for a good harvest.

Sinhalese and Hindu New Year 

  • April 13th marks the journey of the Sun from Meena to Mesha.
  • New Year marks the end of harvest and the beginning of spring.
  • Sinhalese New Year begins with an observance of ‘Nonagathe’ (which translates to ‘auspicious’ or ‘neutral’ time).  During this time people are discouraged from undertaking activities. Instead, people go to temples and perform religious rites and receive blessings from a priest.
  • Herbal mixtures (known as Nanu) are applied prior to taking a ceremonial bath on the last day of the year as a means to purify the body and soul.
  • It is also a custom to offer betel (a leaf of a vine) to parents and elders as a token of love and gratitude. This helps to make elders feel accepted and cared for by their children, and they generally reciprocate with blessings.

Superstitions

  • It is considered to be a fortunate time during the New Year Festival amongst the Buddhist and Hindu community.
  • Even the Presidents of the country take note of Fortune-teller statements.

Tips

  • Understand the importance of New Year to your care recipient and accept and respect that customs and beliefs about New Year are different from culture to culture.
  • Identify, document and support any spiritual/religious needs of your care recipients.
  • Identify, document and facilitate any dietary requirements.

Resources

Generalist

  • The ethnic and religious diversity of Sri Lanka means that there is a wide range of festivals and celebrations that are held throughout the year in Sri Lanka.

General Sri Lankan Significant Dates

  • 4th February – National Day
  • May - Full Moon Day/Vesak (also known as Buddha’s Birthday or Buddha Day) A major celebration of the Lord Buddha.
  • July/August – Kataragama (a time of offerings and prayers)

Key Sinhalese Festivals / Significant Dates

Full moon day in January - Duruthu Perahera

  • Commemorates the first visit of Buddha to Sri Lanka.

Full moon day in June – Poson

  • Commemorates when Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka.

July/August – Esala

  • Cultural celebrations that last a month.

Full moon day in December – Unduvap

  • Sangamitta’s memorial day

Key Tamil Festivals / Significant Dates

14th January – Thaipangal

  • Farmers Festival

July/August – Vel

  • A day to honour the War God Skhanda

November – Deepavali

  • Festival of Lights

September/October - Navarathri Festival

  • Hindu Festival of nine nights, which includes 3 days of prayer to various goddesses; Saraswathy (the Goddess of Education), Laxshmy (the Goddess of Wealth) and Durka (the Goddess of Braveness)

To sight other significant dates that relate to religious observances, please refer to Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist religious profiles.

Tips

  • Understand the importance of any significant days to your care recipient and accept and respect that customs and beliefs about special days are different from culture to culture.
  • Identify, document and support any spiritual/religious needs of your care recipients.
  • Identify, document and facilitate any dietary requirements.

Resources

Generalist

  • Activities that may be enjoyed by Sri Lankans include; watching movies, listening to music, dancing, sport such as; cricket and volleyball and games such as; lime and spoon (similar to egg and spoon however the spoon with lime is held in the mouth) and musical chairs.

Reminiscence

  • Smell or taste - Using smell kits, different cultural foods. Suggestions include; Curry Leaves, Turmeric, Clove, Cinnamon, Lemongrass, Nutmeg, Vanilla and Ginger.  
  • Sight - Cultural Photographs, Slides, Films, Painting pictures, looking at objects. Refer to the “Cultural activities resources” section for some visual ideas).    
  • Touch - Touching cultural objects, feeling textures, painting and pottery. Pampering, massage hands, etc. if it is considered culturally appropriate by the care recipient and they trust you to do this without being intrusive           
  • Sound - Personalised playlists, listening to familiar tunes from the radio, C.D's, YouTube, listening to cultural performances, or making music using various instruments. (Refer to the “Music resources” section for some music ideas).

Tips

  • It is important to understand your care recipient’s activity likes and dislikes and their personal history to plan appropriate activities for them.
  • Your care recipient should be provided with a choice of activities to participate in.
  • Participating in suitable activities can help a person with dementia to achieve purpose and pleasure, help to improve their mood, responses, memory function, increase social interaction, sleep, improve verbal and non-verbal communication and restore a sense of identity. Activities also play a significant part in increasing the person’s wellbeing and confidence which will decrease responsive behaviours or ill-being.
  • It is important that activities are suitable to the level of ability of the person with dementia. People with dementia should be encouraged to participate as independently as possible and be given the choice to participate or to watch others.
  •  Always talk to the person’s doctor before starting them on a new exercise program and ensure the program designed for them takes into account their current health and ability.
  • Alzheimer’s Australia SA, local council libraries or community organisations may be able to loan suitable cultural activities such as music, games, videos etc.

Cultural activity resources

  • For cultural activity information and ideas refer to the “Cultural activities, resources” section below.
  • For local community contact details refer to the “Links, Community Contacts” section of this app.

Resources

Generalist

  • Sri Lankan music has four main influences: ancient folk rituals, Buddhism, European colonisation, and the Indian culture, including Bollywood.
  • Soft and soothing music is commonly enjoyed by Sri Lankan people.
  • Some popular Sri Lankan musicians include; Sunil Edirisinghe, Rookantha Gunathilaka, Edward Jayakody, Gunadasa Kapuge, Austin Munasinghe, Sanath Nandasiri, Amarasiri Peiris, Stanley Peris, Victor Ratnayake, Rohana Weerasinghe, Bathiya and Santhush, Iraj & Ranidu and Ranga Dasanayaka.
  • Music is enjoyed by many elderly Sri Lankans, particularly songs from older singers like CT Fernando, Amaradeva or Chithra Somapala.
  • The Kavi, often sung while doing the work in the fields and Chenas or fishing or carting, is also very popular among some older people.  
  • Educated elderly Sri Lankans may opt to listen to Western Classical music and singers like Jim Reeves or Nat King Cole.
  • Some Sri Lankan people may prefer eastern music rather than western styles of music, and suitable music may also depend on religious beliefs, so it is best to ask about personal preferences.

Tips

  • Music is the most powerful universal language.
  • Music provides an external rhythm and can restore a person back to themselves, and to others, at least for a while.
  • People tend to remain contactable as musical beings on some level right up to the very end of life.
  • It is important to understand your care recipient’s music likes and dislikes and to provide them with their choice of music to listen to.
  • Create a personalised music playlist for your care recipient for their maximum benefit and enjoyment.
  • Provide opportunities for the person with dementia to watch live music performances.
  • Providing music a person relates to can have a wide range of benefits to the care recipient. Benefits may include; helping to improve their mood, responses, memory function, increase social interaction, improve verbal and non-verbal communication and restore a sense of identity.

Resources

Generalist

In Australia

  • The main languages spoken by Sri Lankan-born Australians at home are Sinhalese, English and Tamil (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).
  • The majority of Sri Lankan-born Australians (91.9%) who reported that they speak another language at home indicated that they speak English very well or well, whilst about 6.1% did not speak English well or at all (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

In Sri Lanka

  • Sinhala and Tamil are the official and national languages of Sri Lanka. The languages have some shared characteristics and loanwords from each other’s language.
  • Sinhala (also known as Sinhalese or Singhalese) is the original language of the Sinhalese people, the main ethnic group in Sri Lanka, and is spoken by approximately 16 million people.
  • Tamil is from the Dravidian language family and is spoken by the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. Other Tamils living in India, Malaysia and Singapore may also speak Tamil.
  • English is often used in government and is spoken competently by approximately 10% of the population.

Tips

  • Being able to communicate effectively is crucial to the physical and emotional well-being of the care recipient.
  • Be careful not to underestimate or assume the communication capacity of a person with dementia.
  • Ensure that the care recipient has participation in decisions that affect them.
  • The words you use when speaking to, and about, a person with dementia matters. It is important to always use positive and enabling language and to not use words that may cause offense.
  • Ensure the health care and personal care plans and reviews identify and support the linguistic needs of your care recipient and their family.  Be mindful that linguistic considerations should include the care recipients’ menu choices, food services, their religious and spiritual needs, and their ability to participate in activities. Determine what language(s) they are able to speak, read and write. Communicate with them and provide information according to their language preference and literacy level.
  • Identify and record and health issues such as poor hearing, poor eyesight, dehydration or problems with dentures to ensure there is no miscommunication with your care recipient.
  • Be aware that most people with dementia will revert back to their native tongue and/or other languages they have learnt.
  • Care recipients should always be given the choice to use professional translators and interpreters. Provide professional translators and interpreters to your care recipients and/or to their family whenever they request the need, when the care plan is developed, when the care plan is reviewed and at any time when “informed consent” is required.
  • Care recipients often prefer to communicate with a care worker from their own cultural background therefore the use of bilingual staff or volunteers should be always be considered and provided whenever possible. The care recipient should however be given this choice rather than it be assumed that this is their preference.
  • Provide visual aids, use gestures and physical prompts, and learn and use key words in the person’s own language to improve communication during routine care and other simple service interventions.
  • Ensure that communication is adapted to the care recipient’s level of dementia and understand the importance of allowing more time for those in later stages to understand and respond to you.
  • Support your care recipients' individual choices by providing access to media such as radio, TV, live stream services, DVDs, CDs and books in their preferred language.
  • All staff and volunteers should undertake training in cultural awareness, appropriate communication and the correct use of telephone and on-site interpreting services.

Language and Communication resources

  • Refer to the “Language and Communication, Resources” section below for a wide range of information (including communication cards, signage, health information in community languages, etc.)
  • Translating and Interpreter contact details and other relevant information is available in the "Links, Translating and Interpreting" section. 

Advice and Support

  • Seek advice and support from the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service (DBMAS) if required – phone 1800 699 799.

Resources