If you are caring for a senior from a different culture, here are some caregiving tips to help you bridge the cultural gap.

How can I adapt my caregiving role for seniors of different cultures?

An article titled “21st Century Caregivers: Diversity in Culture” published in the journal Aging Well suggests that different values and expectations in a setting of cultural diversity may cause anger and frustration on the part of the senior and increase the burden of caregiving. The article stresses the importance of communication early in the caregiving relationship so that the caregiver understands the patient’s cultural traditions and norms and provides care that respects these differences.

Specifically, the article describes the following considerations that the caregiver should take into account when working with people of other cultures:

  • Time. Some cultures place a different level of importance on time, and may even have certain “taboo” periods during the day or week that the caregiver should respect.
  • Space. Cultural diversity includes the concept of personal space, or how much distance is considered respectful when you are caregiving or simply having a conversation with the individual and his or her family members.
  • Communication. In some cultures, physical touch outside caregiving duties is considered off-limits. The caregiver should ask what forms of address are acceptable, whether or not a handshake or embrace is welcomed in the senior’s particular culture, and if there are any gestures that should be avoided.
  • Family. Some cultures include even extended family members as part of the family circle. Caregiving that respects cultural diversity includes understanding the senior’s concept of family and who they may or may not talk to about health care concerns.
  • Social structure. Are there certain rituals the senior and his or her family observes? Specific dates that have cultural significance and should be avoided for all but essential caregiving tasks?
  • Food and diet. It’s important for the caregiver to know about the food and eating customs of a senior from a different culture, and if there are any foods that should be avoided for cultural or religious reasons.
  • Health traditions. There is a lot of cultural diversity in health practices that a caregiver should be aware of in order to avoid offensive treatments or practices. Some cultures also embrace alternative therapies and rituals in treating illness or disease that should be respected as much as possible.
  • Caregiver bias. It’s also important for the person providing care to consider his or her own beliefs and avoid stereotyping others in a setting of cultural diversity. Try to communicate acceptance and understanding of the senior’s culture and practices, and try to use culturally appropriate words and expressions to gain trust with the senior and his or her family members.

Research quoted in the article showed that culturally sensitive caregiving led to more positive health outcomes and increased satisfaction with the relationships between the caregiver and the patient and his or her family.

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