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Elderly care improved with language support

The work tasks within the care of the elderly in recent years have become more complex. The actual work tasks have changed, and today the staff must be able to engage in dialogue with colleagues, residents, their representatives and relatives. Add to this all the documentation and having to be available as a contact person. This was the background to the project SpråkSam.


Språksam stöder arbetsplatslärande i äldrevårdern

CAPTION: SpråkSam supports workplace learning in elderly care.

“You cannot learn everything you need to know during a short project period, but we have come a long way,” says Kerstin Sjösvärd, contact person for the Social Fund Project SpråkSam. The project has aimed to improve language training and make the workplace environment better for language development for those who risk exclusion from the labour market because they lack skills in Swedish.
“We have managed to start a process of change, and today many people get in touch to learn from the way we work because it has proven to be a process which has produced results.

Both sides’ responsibility

The uniqueness of this method is that both sides are responsible for language development, both those who speak Swedish and those who must learn the language.

“It means a lot to receive encouragement and support from those around you. The fact that we have teachers in the workplace has also contributed to changes to the workplace. People have started to talk to each other, and it is no longer taboo not to be able to speak Swedish,” says Kerstin Sjösvärd who also thinks that those who have Swedish as their mother tongue need to learn more Swedish.

“Now the staff encourage each other and the teachers have also gained more knowledge about what it’s like to work with language development in elderly care, since they have been in the environment where the language is spoken.”

Lack of time

Managers and language representatives have received special training in language development and communication, and that has made them aware of what it is that is supportive or is detrimental to language development. However, it has been difficult to find the time; elderly care is a tough business with busy schedules.

“We could have used more time to prepare ourselves,” says Kerstin Sjösvärd. We have now been able to identify the target groups that were initially extremely heterogeneous. Some knew a lot of Swedish, others a little and the educational background ranged from no schooling at all to university educations.

“It has also taken time to build up trust so that the staff felt confident when they talked about their shortcomings in Swedish.

SpråkSam has been evaluated and the report indicates that, “given the conditions, the results are very good.” A second phase is to follow, and then even those with Swedish as their native language will be able to take part in the workplace training so that it becomes a learning workplace where people give and take and learn from each other.

This will be done in the new ESF project ArbetSam, which is currently in its mobilization phase and which will continue until 30 June 2013. ArbetSam has been inspired by SpråkSam and will focus on the build-up of support structures at the workplace.

“The main difference is that ArbetSam will also turn to people with Swedish as their mother tongue,” says Kerstin Sjösvärd.

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SpråkSams webbplats

ArbetSam webbplats