As the population ages and people live longer, more and more families will rely on care homes to help look after loved ones in their latter years.
However, in some communities with a strong cultural sense of family duty, placing a relative into care is still seen as a sticky subject.
Kailash Parekh, vice-chairman of Preston & West Lancashire Racial Equality Council, explains: “In the Indian and Pakistani community, for example, it is taboo for people to put their elderly relatives into care. It’s a big issue.
“There are certain expectations – a widespread view that children and family members should personally look after their elders for the rest of their lives.
“There is a lot of pressure and expectations from a social and religious point of view.”
Care experts say, over the last few years, more families from ethnic minorities are seeking places in care facilities.
But is enough being done to cater for their specific needs – which could include special diets or language barriers?
Last year, a lack of Muslim day care facilities within Preston was identified by Mark Greenhalgh, manager of Aadams Residential Care Home in Deepdale.
He says currently Muslims must travel up to 20 miles outside of Preston to access day care facilities specific to their needs.
Aadams Residential Care Home will be able to provide a limited service from early July this year. The service will be open to everyone, but will provide halal menus and will be orientated around Muslim culture and holidays.
Mr Greenhalgh said: “We’re hoping to start up a limited service in an area that we’ve designated, and then build from that.
“It’s a case of homes having to adapt, amend and introduce policy procedures and practices that meet the needs of the cultural backgrounds of people coming in.”
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) states that care providers are required to ensure that “care and treatment must be provided to service users with due regard to their age, sex, religious persuasion, sexual orientation, race origin, cultural and linguistic background and any disability they may have”.
As care homes are open to all members of the community regardless of background or ethnicity, there has always been a focus on treating all residents the same and accepting everyone. Now we are starting to see a positive change in care homes making a shift towards treating residents more as individuals, according to one academic.
Expert in mental health and the Equality Act, Hari Sewell, said “I think we have begun to take steps towards encouraging people to feel that they have the right to ask for things that they really want or to point out things that they don’t feel comfortable with.”
Kailash says more could be done to help ease the transition: “There should be more opportunity on the part of care homes to offer a respite and support to the families. More training of social services should be provided.
“They should be promoting this as a positive thing. They should go to forums, events – these are avenues to offer support and learn about the communities.
“There should be more leaflets to promote cultural inclusion positively. At the moment, there is a lot of doom and gloom. People are reluctant to speak about such issues. From my cultural point of view, there is a lot of taboo at play.
“More cultural engagement can break these cultural barriers. The government and local council are responsible to provide role models, positive examples and stories for people to connect with. There should be more commitment on their part.”
One 39-year-old man from Preston, who did not want to be named, placed his Indian-born father in a care home temporarily following a stay in hospital. His dad stayed for six months while recuperating as he had problems walking.
He says it was a difficult decision to make but the care home was excellent and respected his needs.
He said: “As a Muslim community, we like to look after our elders. We wanted to keep him at home with us the entire time, but social services told us he needed specialised care.
“There were no issues with the care home, it was absolutely brilliant. We were visiting on a daily basis and all his requirements were regularly met.
“Carers Lancashire and their organisation put us in the right direction and provided us with access to all the services that were available for my father.”