Marion Lau OAM is a Director of her own management consultancy, and with focus on aged care, ethnic aged and migrant women’s health and well-being, as well as small business counselling and mentoring. In recent time, she has also provided a service to selected international students in the area of social and emotional support, as well as general mentoring and conversational English tutoring.
Marionhas special interest and commitment to advocate for the principles of Access & Equity and Social Justice and their application to migrants, especially women & children, and the aged from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds.
As a female small business owner, she is concerned that small businesses have the support to understand and comply with relevant legislations, especially business owners from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds, as well as develop strategies to ensure their continuing financial sustainability and profitability. She is a volunteer with the Small Business Mentoring Service, and mentors many small business owners.
She has spoken at many seminars and conducted workshops and lectured to student nurses and multi-disciplinary members of aged care teams on caring for patients from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds and the Ethnic Aged. As an Aged Care Consultant, she works with residential aged care providers to assist them comply with Commonwealth & State regulations.
Marion was awarded the Order of Australia in 1996 for her work with older Australians and those from Chinese backgrounds, and a Centenary Medal in 2003 for her work in promoting multiculturism. She is also a Justice of the Peace inVictoria.
Marion’s many community activities include:-
Past Chair & Current Deputy Chair - Ethnic Communities' Council ofVictoria
Chair- Aged Care Policy Committee- Ethnic Communities’ Council ofVictoria
President - Chinese Health Foundation ofAustralia
Past President - Chinese Community Society ofVictoria
Director - Doutta Gala Aged Care Services Inc
Director - Royal District Nursing Service Board (RDNS)
Member – RDNS Ethics & Research Committee
Member –RDNS Clinical Governance Committee
Board Member – Royal Children’s Hospital – Children’s Bioethics Centre
Past President & Current Vice -President – Victorian Elderly Chinese Welfare Society Inc
Charter Member & President 2009/10 - Rotary Club ofElsternwick,Victoria
Member - Victorian Ministerial Small Business Advisory Council
Member – Victorian Multicultural Business Advisory Council
Mentor – Small Business Mentoring Service
Commentaries by Marion Lau:
18 August 2010
Dementia – A Hidden Potential Epidemic
We are just one week away from our Federal Election and I am still to be convinced as to the policies of the major parties in relation to a number of what I consider to be very important community issues. One of my major concern is Dementia.
The number of people being diagnosed with dementia is growing rapidly, and by the year 2050 will reach around one million, according to a report by Access Economics, Caring places: planning for aged care and dementia 2010 -2950, Volume 1. This report also forecast that by 2020, the number of baby boomers living with dementia will be around 75,000.
At the present time, it is estimated that about 60% of residents living in resident aged care facilities also have dementia. This has great ramification on how age care services are to be delivered and by whom. As it is, we have a great shortage of qualified workers prepared to work in aged care. Caring for older people with dementia is a specialty, and takes a carer with special attributes to be able to provide quality care to clients living with dementia.
There is a need for governments to invest in encouraging and supporting health professionals, particularly nurses and personal care workers, to undertake suitable training to care for people living with dementia. At the same time, the community, as a whole, needs to be made aware of the increasing incidence of dementia, and the benefit that early intervention can bring.
This will also assist in removing the stigma that is still associated with dementia, and reduce the social isolation, though often self inflicted, through social dis-engagement.
While it may not solve the dementia challenge, an increase in funding towards medical research into the cause and prevention of dementia will assist in some ways to a better understanding of dementia, and the provision of a higher quality of dementia care.
There is an urgent need to increase the number of care packages and residential aged care places to be in line with the increase in the number of older people being diagnose with dementia.
Our acute hospital systems should also be more dementia care educated and friendly, as many older people living with dementia are also at greater risk of falls, malnutrition, stress, and confusion when they are admitted to hospitals for treatment of acute episodes.
For the older people from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds, living with dementia is a double challenge, especially at the early onset. Not only do they have to cope with memory loss, but also with trying to communicate with other people who do not speak their language.
Growing old is something that will affect all of us, regardless of our status in the community. Dementia is the leading cause of disability for Australians over 65 years, according to Access Economics, Caring places: planning for aged care and dementia 2010 – 2050, Volume 1.
In conclusion, there is an urgent need for government to:
Provide funding support for people living with dementia
Provide quality dementia care for Australians from all cultures and all ages, regardless of where they live
Increase awareness of dementia, and promote access to and the benefits of early diagnosis
Increase funding for research into the cause and cure of dementia, and dementia care
Reduce the predicted cost blowout caused by dementia by reducing the number of people with the disease in the future through research and early diagnosis and intervention
4 August 2010
Aged Care Continuing Issues
It still amazes me that despite all the statistics and “research evidence” that have been published in the last couple of decades or so on the rapidly increasing ageing population in Australia, there does not appear to be anything encouraging coming out of this election campaign that is conducive to providers of age care continuing to provide this service. In fact, in the last six to seven years, there have been six very comprehensive reports produced, namely:
The Hogan 2004 “Review of Pricing Arrangements in Residential Aged Care”.
The Productivity Commission’s 2008 “Trends in Aged Care Services”.
The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration’s 2009 “Inquiry into Residential and Community Aged Care in Australia”.
The Productivity Commission’s 2009 “Annual Review of Regulatory Burdens on Business: Social and Economic Infrastructure Services”.
The NHHRC’s 2009 Report on “ A Healthier Future for All Australians”.
The 2010 Henry Review on “Australia’s Future tax system: Report to the Treasurer”.
All these reports contain some very significant recommendations that if implemented, would support the aged care industry in continuing to provide and maintain a standard of aged care services that is now expected by our ageing communities. However, that does not seem to be happening.
Regrettably, up till this point in time, there is a lack of focus and substance demonstrated by all parties, both state and federal, in this very important area. We would like to know where the age care policies are, and we mean the real ones.
The cost of providing residential aged care services continue to soar. There is a shortage of adequately qualified care staff. A large proportion of the aged care workforce have limited or no understanding of aged care, thus compromising the standard of care being provided. Also, staff are spending so much time with documentations, to comply with the numerous legislative requirements, that there is minimum time left to provide direct resident care.
Many older Australians all like to remain independent and live in their own homes for as long as it is practical and safe to do so. Governments agree as the cost of providing residential aged care services is high. There has been some increase in the number of aged care packages made available to assist with the care of frail older people living n their own homes. Again, the challenge for providers is the lack of adequately trained staff and infrastructure to ensure that the standard of care being provided is of high quality and uniform across the board.
Another issue is that many potential care recipients and their families are confused with what they see as a “duplication” of the aged care system. One that is provided by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing (DOHA), and another that is being provide by the Victorian Department of Health Services (DHS). Both systems are complex individually, and when assessed together to make a decision as to where to place loved ones, families feel they need more than a PhD to understand them. And, when eventually they have successfully negotiated the two systems, and decided on a facility to place their loved one, They have to go on a waiting list because of the shortage of beds. They are told that they will have to wait weeks or even months!
We all have vested interest in seeking to improve aged care services, including politicians and decision makers. Being an optimist, by the time election day comes, at both Commonwealth and State level, we MAY be pleasantly surprised to find both main political parties will have some good news for our retirees and baby boomers, in the area of aged care service provision.
18 July 2010
International Students – Negatives and Positives
In recent time we have been hearing a lot of negative reporting about the plight of International Students. There is still some strong opinion by many students themselves that they are being treated like “second class” citizens.
International students pay large sums of money for the privilege of obtaining education inAustralia, at both secondary as well as tertiary levels. Parents expect “value for money”. This includes better supervision and support to ensure regular attendance at lectures, adequate counseling and mentoring, assistance with accommodation to prevent exploitation by scrupulous landlords, student benefits like free public transport . This does not seem to be happening across the board. Students are missing lectures, many are having problems with landlords, and many cannot afford to pay the cost of public transport.
The issue of security of daily living is also of great concern to parents. While students are reluctant to discuss their own fears with their school counselors , whom they consider as part of the “tertiary hierarchy”, and definitely not their parents, the latter read headlines in newspapers about “attacks on international students’, and they fear for their own children’s safety.
Governments of the day, both at state and federal level have a responsibility to ensure that “duty of care” is practiced by all educational facilities to all the students placed under their care, whether they are local students or international students. Educational facilities who receive international students must review their orientation program and ensure that the program includes areas like activities of daily living in an Australian environment. The concept of student counselors is good in theory only, as they are considered to be part of the institution’s hierarchy. The notion of a student mentor would be more receptive, especially if the mentors are not perceived to be part of the organization.
All educational institutions who receive international students should make efforts to invite community organizations to be “friends” of their students, to invite them to participate in their community activities and events. I am sure that there are a number of events that local governments organize that international students can participate in. We talk aboutAustraliabeing an “inclusive society”, what better way to show the world that we practice what we preach.
There is also much discussion in recent times on skilled migration. Where better to recruit skilled workers who have some knowledge and understanding of theAustraliaway of life then those who have received their education here inAustralia.
Our migration program must be flexible enough to enable these international students the opportunity to seek permanent residency inAustraliaon completion of their studies, to be able to do just that.
We must not treat international students as money making commodities. We cannot just take their money and then leave them to fend for themselves. They are young people and represent the future leaders of our international community. They need guidance, support and nurturing. Whether they return to their country of birth once they have completed their studies inAustralia, or wish to seek opportunity to remain here, we should assist them to do so. On a global perspective, they should be enabled to make their own decision as to which international community they wish to make a constructive contribution to.
There has also been a lot of rhetoric about Human Rights inAustralia. I put it to everyone that it is the right of International Students to be treated equitably and with respect in every way.
4 July 2010
Do we remember who they are, or are they becoming another group of forgotten citizens?
Perhaps a little reminder. 2010 is the year when the first wave of our baby boomer generation , those born from 1946, reach pension eligibility. That is , they can now call themselves pensioners if they choose to retire from the workforce but do not have the capacity to be financially independent. Despite all the rhetoric that the population in Australia, as well as in other parts of the world, is rapidly ageing, we do not seem to be prepared enough to ensure that this group of citizens are equipped to maintain a reasonable quality of life as they age. There are still many gaps, particularly amongst seniors from non-English Speaking Backgrounds (NESB).
At a resent consultation of seniors from NESB, many of the participants were very vocal on many issues that impact their lives on a daily basis. These include:
· Access to Health Services – many still experience difficulty in accessing appropriate health services. When they manage to arrive at a point of service, they have difficulty in communicating with the service providers. Waiting for the relevant language interpreters to be available was time consuming and frustrating. Some “interpreters” were using dialects different to the clients’, which resulted in misinformation being conveyed in many instances.
· Transport – Cost of transport have become very expensive. In many instances the nearest public transport is NOT within easy access for many.
· Mental Health – It has been identified that mental health is becoming a big issue amongst older people from NESB. This is made more complex because there is still a stigma attached to mental illness .
· Social Isolation – Lack of transport and language proficiency have isolated them from many of the activities that other seniors are enjoying.
· Insufficient and inappropriate housing for seniors, especially in the summer heat and the winter cold.
There is a need for governments at all levels to give higher priority to the health and welfare of our growing number of older Australians, particularly those from NESB, by:
Ø Improving access to culturally appropriate health services
Ø Improving the availability of interpreters
Ø Increasing the provision of social support
Ø Promoting the destigmatisation of mental illness through the development and implementation of culturally responsive mental health initiatives
Ø Improving access to public transport and giving consideration to Free Public Transport for Seniors
Ø Improving access to building modification that is affordable. Supporting maintenance and repair of energy-efficient cooling and heating systems for pensioners; amongst other initiatives.
I live in anticipation , on a day to day basis, that the issue of enabling our senior Australians to continue to maintain a quality of lifestyle as they grow older, will be a reality and not hindered by the politics of the day. It is the Right of every Australian to be able to enjoy their golden years in comfort and safety.
18 June 2010
Elder Abuse Awareness
Elder Abuse is never an easy issue to tackle. Given that we had just celebrated World Elder Abuse Awareness day on 15th June 2010, I would like to raise this issue in this forum as well.
Contrary to much denial, elder abuse is common in many families, and is a very controversial topic. It is even more challenging and confronting within ethnic families and communities.
We need to be aware that elder abuse can present itself in many forms. It is no longer adequate to note an abuse occurs only when we can see physical signs of some form of injury. Elder Abuse is when a vulnerable old person is taken advantage of and harmed by someone whom she/he trusts to care for her/him and to look after their interests.
Elder Abuse can be :
A large part of the problem in identifying and addressing instances of personal abuse is the term itself. Few people like to think of themselves as perpetrators of abuse, particularly against family members, and few older people like to think of themselves as victims of abuse by people they love. So incidents go unreported or under-reported, which may be quite easily attained and make the world of difference. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for the difficulties experienced within inter-personal relationships to be less likely to be reported among migrant and multicultural communities.
Governments at all levels have a very strategic role to play in addressing this issue before it becomes an epidemic. Policies need to be developed to influence reform on elder abuse prevention issues. These polices must be inclusive to the particular needs of our culturally diverse population. Funding and other support must be made available to provide Elder Abuse Prevention education, particularly to staff working in the aged, health and community care sectors. Opportunities should also be made available for the increasing numbers of seniors within our communities in general, to understand their rights, and what constitutes an abuse. Many will need assurance of some kind that by seeking information and knowledge, and inevitable exposing their “abusers”, they will not suffer any ramifications. For most of our seniors, the worse abuse is isolation – social abuse.
I am looking forward to all levels of government to consider this issue as a priority and assist our communities to find solutions to end this situation.
4 May 2010
Whilst acknowledging that immigration is a Federal issue, I am of the strong opinion that settlement should be a shared responsibility. As such, I believe that there are a number of gaps that require addressing as a matter of urgency, at our State level.
There is still a lack of appropriate infrastructure to assist the settlement of skilled migrants, particularly in many regional areas. The classic example is that of doctors who were sent to regional centers to practice, with little or inadequate orientation to the local culture and the way medicine is practised inAustralia, particularly in the regions. When mistakes are made, sometimes with traumatic effect on patients and their communities, who get the bulk of the “blame’? The respective migrant doctor of course. Very little is mentioned of the fact that many of the migrant doctors have been put into these positions with minimum preparation.
And what about the rest of the family. Again, minimum or lack of support for spouses and children, in education, employment and social welfare creates an unhealthy environment for the migrant women who are trying to “fit” into their new homes. For many, this will be their first experience of not having an extended family that they can call upon. They feel lonely and isolated, especially for those who have yet to adapt to the local “version” of the English language. Anecdotal information collected have indicated that there are still many communities who are not truly welcoming of migrant workers, regardless of the fact there many who “choose” to settle in regional areas do so because they were advised that their particular skills are required there.
For those small business owners who are keen to employ skilled migrants, their challenge is that they do not have the resources, both human as well as financial, to provide the orientation and instruction to assist the skilled migrants adopt Australian standards and work culture as well as understand compliance of local legislations. Perhaps some support funding could address this issue.
Other anecdotal information has suggested that a number of skilled migrants do not remain in the regions for any length of time. Perhaps this is due to some of the above points. There appears to be a need for some study/research to identify the factors that influence the decision of skilled migrants to initially choose to reside in Regional Victoria. Once they are there, there should be strategies in place to retain them.
As many of our migrants, including those with special skills, come from non-English speaking countries, we spend a lot of time and energy on the issue of language. While this is important for obvious reasons, we need to consider looking at this issue from a different angle. Identify their particular skills, bring them in, and then concentrate the immediate period after their arrival, on teaching them English. At the end of the day, we will have English speaking migrants with the special skills that we need.
Australiais increasing the retirement age to 67 years. We are seeking “skilled migrants to join our workforce”. Like many other countries around the world, our workforce is also getting “older”. So we should expect our skilled migrants to be more mature, and that their social needs will be different.
There has also been much discussion, especially by a number of employer groups, that they will require people who have Australian experience. We need to be realistic. After all, we are talking about migrants. Many would not have had the opportunity to experience working inAustraliaprior to putting in their migration applications. That is why it is so important for an infrastructure and systems to be in place that will enable the new migrants to have the opportunity of a detailed orientation.
I am sure that if government address the gaps identified, and others that have yet to be identified, the many issues that are confronting our communities in relation to the settlement of skilled migrants, particularly in regionalVictoria, would be greatly reduced.
18 April 2010
WOMEN AS CARERS
Despite all the proposals put forward to increase funding in the health and aged care areas as some of both the State and Commonwealth governments’ promise prior to the elections, carers seem to miss out again. In this instance, I am referring to the many women who are carers of both their elderly spouses as well as those with handicapped adult children.
Governments of the day need to give serious consideration to increase resources to assist and support this “forgotten” group of senior citizens. We have given much thought to the work life balance of the working younger women in recent times, and rightly so. It is time we give the same consideration to women who have a dual carer
I am referring to the women who are responsible for the care of both elderly husbands and adult handicapped children They have to make decisions constantly to have to choose between the well-being of their elderly husbands or their handicapped adult children. This situation is more complex when the women are from a Non- English Backgrounds, and their cultures consider it a stigma to have a handicapped child. This makes it difficult for them to seek support from their peers or other members of their own communities. As a result their own health is affected. They isolate themselves, suffer from stress and depression. They are constantly worried that if should they be unable to care for their loved ones, particularly their adult children, who will look after them. Most of them do not consider placing these children into a nursing home as a good possible option.
Most people come toAustralia, the “lucky country”, in anticipation of a better quality of lifestyle. The women I am referring to above definitely do not enjoy that.
I hope that at next week’s Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting, the issue of women carers gets some consideration in the continuing dispute on the move regarding the Commonwealth taking over aged care and some/all HACC services.