Maharlika Lodge: A place to call home for Filipinos with dementia
Story by Tiffany Fung
Launched in November 2018 by the Australian Filipino Community Services (AFCS) and St James Terrace Nursing Homes, Maharlika Lodge is the first of its kind in Victoria for Filipinos living with dementia.
Maharlika Lodge provides culturally respectful services, such as Filipino aged care workers, Filipino food and music therapy programs, which sets them apart from any other lodge, and sees them working hard to help Australian-Filipinos with dementia feel at home.
Centre Manager of AFCS Corina Dutlow said the Maharlika Lodge is an important achievement for the organisation, which aims to keep families together and preserve Filipino cultural heritage.
“This was something the Filipino community has wanted to get off the ground for a very long time,” Corina said.
“The word ‘Maharlika’ means majestic, loyal, noble… that’s something that we want for participants to feel when they stay with us.”
AFCS staff and volunteers visited the lodge in December 2018 over a period of two weekends to assist the residents with support and treatment.
Corina said that it was heartwarming to see the meaningful, holistic care shown by the Filipino aged care workers, clinicians and doctors and its rewarding impact on the residents.
The cutting edge about it is that it's really all Filipinos and run by Filipinos. The atmosphere feels like you stepped into a Filipino home.
“We are dealing with clients that have dementia from all different stages, so for them to see a familiar face, culturally speaking, it’s almost like this automatic understanding because of the customs and values poured over from the Philippines,” she said.
In a 2009 Access Economics report by Alzheimer’s Australia, there were over 12,400 people with dementia who speak a culturally and linguistically diverse language at home in Victoria, and they projected this number to increase to nearly 39,000 by 2050.
According to the Melbourne Migrant Information Centre in 2011, Filipinos have a lack of understanding towards disabilities, and combined with their lack of English proficiency, this can create a cultural barrier to health services.
Corina also said if not treated seriously, dementia will remain an uneducated and uncared for issue in the Filipino community.
“It could be easily mistaken for being unwell or related to old age or just unofficially misdiagnosed by family members,” she explained.
Dementia is disregarded and becomes part of the norm, when it shouldn't be part of the norm.
Corina said Maharlika Lodge will continue to accept residents on a short and long term basis.