English seniors resilient, resourceful when accessing health services

By Reann Fournier, Special to The Record

A year ago, University of Sherbrooke Master’s student Alexandra Ethier started searching for local seniors to aid in a research study on the accessibility to health services for English seniors living in the Eastern Townships. Now, after assessing her findings, Ethier says that, not only is she impressed by English-speaking seniors in the region, but she will be continuing her project to provide support.
The research highlights how important English health services are for these seniors. “They described that sometimes, when making calls, if they requested English assistance, they’d be waiting much longer,” said Ethier. “Some came up with strategies to navigate this, but they said that it becomes tiring trying to always advocate for yourself.”
Ethier described that many seniors took their accessibility problems into their own hands. “Many told me that they were able to get mutual aid,” she said. “Any information was shared, like when anyone found an English-speaking doctor.”
According to Ethier’s research, because accessing health services in English is often a difficult task, there is a fear among English seniors that they may not be able to receive the services and help they need. This was also a problem when filing complaints about sub-par services. “The problem here,” said Ethier, “is that since they fear not having these services, some won’t event ask for them.”
Those interviewed by Ethier were eager to have someone who was willing to listen and advocate in their place and who was not a medical professional themselves. She said that many showed up with lists of things they wanted to talk about. “As a researcher, you have the questions you want to ask individuals, but they knew their problems and wanted to talk about them,” she said. “I think it was just nice to have someone really want to listen and hopefully change some things for them.”
Despite all the difficulty English-speaking seniors face when accessing health services, Ethier said she was impressed by their resilience, strength, and resourcefulness. “It’s not just the language either, there are so many things that make this process difficult,” she said. “Many seniors have to be proactive by calling doctors for results, they attend talks about health in their communities. It really is impressive.”

Ethier found more than she had expected through her research and, because of this, has decided to continue her project with an awareness and educational campaign. This campaign will consist of informative videos, brochures, and will include feedback from seniors themselves before launching. While Ethier did not give a concrete date for launching the awareness campaign, she was clear that this was not something she was taking lightly. “It’s all based on what seniors told me. They’re providing me feedback and letting me know their needs. It’s a continuous process,” said Ethier. “I didn’t want my Master’s to just be in a library somewhere. This is something that can help people and will hopefully help people.”

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