Residents with Special Needs

Culture is not just about language, ethnicity or nationality. It is also about identity and relationships, and shared (often painful) experiences. It is now recognised that experiences early in life may significantly affect health and wellbeing in later life. The terms specific populations or vulnerable and underserved populations may be used to describe people with special needs. Sometimes the term forgotten Australians is also used. The identities of groups may change with the passage of time. RAC currently provides care to people who came to Australia as displaced persons following World War 2 and in the future will care for people who are arriving from today’s conflicts in the Middle East and Africa.

The Department of Health suggest that residents with special needs who are currently being cared for within RACF's include:

  • people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds
  • homeless or people who were at risk of being homeless
  • care leavers (see definition below)
  • people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI)
  • veterans with accepted mental health conditions.

The Department of Health says of Forgotten Australians 'include care-leavers, former child migrants and people from the Stolen Generations. Care-leaver means a person who was in institutional care or other form of out-of-home care, including foster care, as a child or youth (or both) at some time during the 20th century'. [1]

There is legislative and policy recognition that some groups in society need affirmative action to address health care inequities. The Aged Care Act (1997) governs the allocation of Aged Care places, and has been amended to ensure that specific groups have access to appropriate aged care accommodation. Under the Commonwealth Government's Living Longer, Living Better program, there is specific funding to provide services to older Australians from specific populations.

There is limited published research from RAC in Australia to inform practice in this evolving area.
Some resources that may aid in understanding and caring for people with specific needs are included here. There is more information on the CareSearch website.

Homeless people

Homeless people may be admitted to aged care and there are RACFs that specifically cater to the needs of people who were homeless prior to admission. The St Mungo's Palliative Care Service is a collaborative project involving the Marie Curie Foundation and St Mungo’s Broadway Homeless Charity in the UK. This partnership has produced a report into the needs of homeless people dying of liver disease called Supporting homeless people with advanced liver disease approaching the end-of-life report.

The National End of Life Care Program in the UK has produced a guide to the care of homeless people. End of life care - achieving quality in hostels and for homeless people has information that may assist staff to understand the needs of people who were previously homeless. The hostels referred to do not have direct equivalents in Australia. They are similar to shelters, boarding houses and supported residential facilities.

People who identify as LGBTI

There is evidence that people who identify as members of this specific population receive less than optimal end-of-life care. There are many possible reasons for this including negative social attitudes, discrimination and homophobia. These issues are outlined in a recent discussion paper. [2]

  • Useful Tip

The essence of quality palliative care for all residents is care founded on the principles of dignity, respect and fairness for all.

  1. Australian Government Department of Health. Working in aged care : Forgotten Australians [Internet]. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia; 2011 [cited 2012 Aug 3].
  2. Rawlings D. End-of-life care considerations for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Int J Palliat Nurs 2012; 18(1):29-34.
  • Veterans may be covered for some forms of health care, for example treatment for anxiety and depression.
    Information about specific services for veterans can be found at:
  • Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) is a service established by Vietnam Veterans. It offers counselling to veterans, peacekeepers and their families
    • The VVCS has a Factsheet on Mental Health Support (42kb pdf), it does not relate to palliative care but does give information on an issue that affects many veterans and may recur in late life.

Other contact details for various support networks for specific populations with special needs

  • Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) which is a network for people who grew up in Australia's orphanages, children's homes and in foster care
  • Child Migrants Trust was established in 1987 and addresses the issues surrounding the deportation of children from Britain to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the former Rhodesia during the post-war period
    • Victoria    (03) 9815 2022
    • Western Australia    (08) 9472 7582
  • International Association of Former Child Migrants and Their Families (IAFCM&F) was launched in October 1997 to provide former Child Migrants world-wide with an organisation spearheaded by child migrants for child migrants
    • Phone    (03) 9348 1354
Last updated 17 May 2017