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2 December 2021

Choosing care that meets your cultural needs

We look at how to find care that respects your heritage or cultural needs. This includes practical advice on choosing care that reflects religious beliefs or is suitable for someone who doesn’t speak English.
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Which?Editorial team

Culturally appropriate care

For some people, cultural identity or heritage is an important factor when choosing care in later life. Cultural identity can include a wide range of factors, including ethnicity, nationality, language or religion.

Care that respects and acknowledges people’s cultural needs is called culturally appropriate care. The Care Quality Commission has published guidance for care providers on how to provide culturally appropriate care services.

Looking for faith-based care options

If you’re looking into care arrangements, you may be looking for an option where either your religious faith, or that of a loved one, is reflected in the service provided.

If so, you may be able to turn to a specialist organisation that provides specific care-related information to people from certain faiths in the UK.

However, bear in mind that local faith-centred care options are generally few and far between. Presence is often driven by local demand – so, for example, if you’re Muslim and live in an area with a large Muslim community, you’ll have a stronger chance of finding Muslim-centred care.

If you can’t find an obvious faith-based care option near you, don’t give up the search. As well as information about specialist organisations, we also explore other ways to search for culturally specific care.

Specialist organisations for faith-based care

Here we list some organisations that provide faith-centred care. However, it’s important to acknowledge that there aren’t that many options of this sort. Some notable absences are specialist organisations for Muslim, Hindu and Sikh people.

Here are some that do exist.

For Jewish people

Jewish Care: this is focused on London and the South East of England. It also runs the Jewish Care Interact website, where you’ll find a directory of care services that accommodate the religious and cultural needs of Jewish people.

For Methodists

MHA: formerly known as Methodist Homes for the Aged, is a care provider that was originally set up by members of the Methodist Church. MHA now welcomes residents regardless of faith, background or belief. It supports more than 18,000 older people across the UK.

For Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jah-Jireh: caters for the needs of Jehovah’s Witnesses who need nursing or residential care. It has care homes in Blackpool, Leyland and Wigan.

If we haven’t listed a specialist organisation for your religion or denomination, that doesn’t automatically mean it doesn’t exist. There are often smaller groups that offer support and advice on a local basis to specific religious or cultural communities. To find out whether there is one, a quick Google search should reveal all.

Faith in Older People is a charity that works with care providers and faith communities to promote a better understanding of the spiritual dimension to the wellbeing of older people. 

Ways to find local options that work for you

Here’s our advice on finding local care options that will work best for you, thinking specifically about your faith.

  • Use specific phrases on a search engine, such as ‘Muslim care home Sheffield’.
  • Speak to your faith leader, as they may have advised on this before.
  • Talk to your peers, as someone else may have already done the research.
  • Ask your local Age UK branch, which may offer good tips.

What if I can’t find anything?

It may well be the case that you exhaust all of the above research routes, and can’t find a local option that fully caters to your faith-based needs.

Choosing what to do next is, of course, a personal choice. But nevertheless there are other avenues you can explore if care provision is needed.

  • Even if there’s no specialist organisation that specifically focuses on care options for people of your faith, get in touch with another faith-based organisation that you trust and see whether it has any pointers.
  • Make a shortlist of reputable care homes or home care providers in your area, and ask each one what arrangements it has in place to cater for residents’ spiritual needs. Ask if it offers a chaplaincy service. If not, ask whether you’d be able to arrange your own visits from a faith leader.

For more useful questions to ask a care provider, take a look at our checklists:

Choosing care for someone who doesn’t speak English

Looking into care options for a loved one can feel difficult and emotionally straining at any time. But if the person for whom you’re doing this doesn’t speak English well, or at all, it becomes even more complex.

Here, we run through some of the best ways to tackle this, to help you and the person you’re representing find the best care provision.

Translating needs

Whether your loved one needs to be assessed by a healthcare professional, or you’re talking to them about how they’d like their care provision to be shaped, it’s important that everyone involved understands each other.

If you speak the main language of your loved one as well as English, you may like to attend appointments and meetings with them, to help ensure clear communication.

However, the person in need of care may not feel comfortable communicating their needs through someone they know well. In this case, the NHS or local authority should be able to provide interpreting and translation services. It’s worth noting that you won’t need to directly pay for this.

If you’re at the stage of researching specific care options, providers may offer some information in the language spoken by your loved one. If this isn’t clearly signposted on the website, this doesn’t automatically mean it doesn’t exist – contact the provider directly to find out what they can offer.

Finding a care service with staff who speak the language of your loved one

When looking into care provision, the first thing you’ll want to do is draw up a shortlist of local and easily accessible options.

Once you’ve done this and you’re happy with your shortlist, it’s worth ringing each one to find out more. You may want to ask whether it has staff who speak the language of your loved one as a priority, before moving onto other important questions.

See our checklists above, with useful questions to ask when choosing a care provider.

You’ll probably have fewer feasible options to choose from at this point, but that may mean you’re one step closer to finding the best fit. The next step is organising a face-to-face visit, including the person who needs care, even if they don’t speak English.

What to do if your online research uncovers nothing practical

If you haven’t yet been successful in finding the right care option for your loved one, don’t give up. There are avenues you can still explore, which is important to do if professional care is needed.

  • Ask friends or relatives in similar circumstances because they could have some useful pointers.
  • Get in touch with your local Age UK or other charity that works on behalf of older people as they may have previously advised on similar challenges.
  • Ask local care providers how their staff would work with someone when there’s a language barrier and potential cultural differences. You could also ask whether staff members have received any relevant training. 

Choosing care for LGBT people

If you are lesbian, gay, bi and/or trans, you may have concerns about being treated with respect when using health and care services. 

Read our guide LGBT: making the best care decisions for guidance on how to find suitable care options, along with information on your rights and where to find support.

Addressing discrimination in care services

If you’ve been discriminated against for your religion or race, know that the Equality Act 2010 is on your side.

Discrimination doesn’t need to be direct to count as unlawful, either. For example, it could be a way of doing things that puts you at a disadvantage compared to others.

For information on what to do if you’re a victim of unlawful discrimination, see our full advice on tackling discrimination in health and care services.

If you have an issue with a care home contract, Which? Legal can give you advice on what you can do.