Senior Care Professionals- Four Tips to Develop Cultural Sensitivity

Senior Care cultural sensitivity

As the world becomes increasingly ethnically blended senior care professionals are called upon to care for people from diverse cultures. This is true in hospitals, clinics, long term care, hospice and home care.  To create person centered senior care it’s important to develop multicultural sensitivity while respecting cultural differences of individuals, families and groups.

Decades ago I worked as an occupational therapist at an Iowa hospital.  One day my supervisor called a meeting about a new patient—not something that typically triggered a meeting.  But this was not a typical patient. He was the elder of a gypsy family. The hospital was making preparations to accommodate what tradition dictated in gypsy culture. The entire extended family would stay on the premises during the elder’s hospitalization.   I admire the way the hospital handled the situation. For days this family lived in campers in the parking lot in addition to several people staying in the hospital room night and day. I was fascinated by all this even though I didn’t understand it.  I’m glad the hospital set such a good example and honored the needs of this patient while demonstrating cultural sensitivity.

Cultural competence is the ability to relate to and provide services for people from cultures and traditions other than one’s own.  Lots of things make up a person’s culture and world view.  Ethnicity, family heritage, spiritual tradition, beliefs about illness and well being, views of death and dying, food beliefs, family structure, language and non-verbal communication are a few such influences.

Four Tips to Develop Cultural Sensitivity

  1. Experts in the field of transcultural nursing as well as professional chaplains suggest we first identify your personal cultural identity. Recognize your social roles, spiritual self-knowledge, cultural heritage, personal habits and attitudes. Your own influences determine how you think and behave socially and in the workplace.
  2. Identify the cultural mix in your own community. The cultural tapestry of Miami is different than in San Francisco or Des Moines or the Appalachian mountains. What shapes the tapestry where you live?
  3. Generalize, rather than stereotype. To stereotype is to apply a belief or attitude to everyone in a cultural group, for example “all Hispanics do this” or “all Chinese think that”. To generalize is to have a basic understanding about a culture and use that knowledge as a starting point to then learn more about a person, family or group. You don’t have to be an expert about cultures to become more sensitive and competent.  Accurate basic information is a good start.
  4. Practice authentic listening. Listen with your ears, eyes, heart and mind. Authentic listening is paying attention in the moment. Information gathered in the moment guides right action.

Person centered senior care fosters a holistic approach.  Factoring in the needs of people from a range of cultures seems logical. Do service providers encourage cultural competence and sensitivity? Share your experience!

Simple Steps to an Attitude of Gratitude

attitude gratitudeBe honest. The last time you sat in traffic, were you thankful for the fact that you had a car to drive and money for the gasoline to run it?  My guess is that wasn’t your first thought.  If you are like me, you were wondering how late you will be for your appointment or asking yourself how you got in this mess to start with.. darn it!

Negative attitudes eat at you from the inside.  Can we change that?  Absolutely we can!  Drs. Blaire and Rita Justice reported for the University of Texas Health Science Center, “a growing body of research shows that gratitude is truly amazing in its physical and psychosocial benefits.”  Other studies have concluded that the expression of gratitude can have positive effect on our health and our moods.  We CAN choose to be grateful!

We can change our attitude by upping our gratitude barometer.  Choosing to smile, laugh and show appreciation to others are not complicated.  And here’s the best part – when you do that, it actually makes YOU feel better.  When you feel better you are happier and even healthier.  Studies show that people who practice gratitude sleep better each night,  report more satisfaction with their lives, feel more optimistic and more connected to others.

As we move into the season of harried chaos, we should all practice being grateful and see what happens.  As caregivers, this season is can be especially stressful.  Find a place to enjoy the simplicity of nature, practice deep breathing, slow down to enjoy your loved ones and be thankful for each moment you have with them.

The season of gratitude is upon us and what better time to change our attitude.  Simple steps to a life of gratitude will change your life and those around you.  Spend some time with an elder – they are some of the most grateful people I know.

Hospice Care: Can Compassion be Taught?

hospice-care compassionSome think compassion is an attribute reserved for people like Mother Teresa. But compassion isn’t just reserved for those who travel a moral high ground.  Hospice care professionals cultivate compassion for when they are called to the bedside.

Compassion is Good Medicine
Compassion has many qualities, most noteworthy loving-kindness and heart-centered. Therefore, compassion is a heartfelt concern for suffering coupled with wanting to ease the suffering. Scientists show interest in the impact of compassion. As a result they’re finding that it’s good medicine. The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education conducts scientific studies of compassion and altruistic behavior. Scientists look beyond Western “hard science” to learn about human behavior and emotions.  Neuroscientists conduct brain studies to discover how compassion affects us biologically.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that 40 seconds of compassionate communication from a physician reduced anxiety and increased confidence among breast cancer patients.  In hospice care compassionate communication may enhance the experience for the patient. But it may also help hospice care professionals find greater satisfaction in their work.

How to Cultivate Compassion
Compassion is a human quality. With intentional practice it arises spontaneously.  Many heart-centered practices exist. Anyone serving people in hospice care can integrate such practices. Especially  relevant is the following example.

Sit comfortably. Be in your body and focus your attention upon your breath. If you wish, place one or both hands over your heart.

First, direct loving kindness to yourself.

Picture two or three people who care about you. Imagine them looking lovingly at you. These might be people in your life now or in the past or even spiritual figures. What would they wish for you? Repeat these simple phrases imagining they were saying them to you.

May you be filled with kindness and compassion.

May you be safe in every way.

May you be well in body and mind.

May you be happy.

May you live with ease.

How do you feel? Notice what arises trying not to judge thoughts, but simply let them pass through your mind.

Next picture someone you would like to send compassion to. It could family or a friend; a co-worker; a stranger; or even  someone you find challenging. Repeat the same phrases except this time direct them to this person. Again, sit for a few minutes simply noticing anything that arises in your mind.

To end, take in a deep, cleansing breath and bring your awareness back into your body. In conclusion, offer thanks for the experience in whatever way you wish. Perhaps a simple “thank you” will do!

 

 

 

 

Senior Care – We Need More Innovation, Person-Centered, Tools

Person-centered programsThe Message is clear. “We need more innovative, person-centered tools to help those who care for our elders, especially those with dementia.”
Our team returned from a whirlwind of fall conventions including the American Health Care Association, Leading Age,  Harmony Healthcare International and many state conferences. Discussions among long term care leaders was a consistent theme of needed innovative tools.
While the industry is faced with many challenges,  how we care for our elders remains a top priority.  Thankfully, for many organizations the transformation to true person-centered care is taking hold.  In order for successful integration and sustainable change, leaders must address these key areas:

  • Person-Centered Care embraces individuality, life experiences,  human value and relationships.  Does your model of care and training address these components?
  • Elder Care is Quickly becoming about Dementia Care.  Is your organization realistic about how many residents or patients have some level of cognitive impairments?
  • Engaging care practices and integrating a program are two different models.  Programs engage all staff, embraced by leadership and have a much higher sustainability factor than haphazard practices.  Programs are articulated as part of the company mission.   Do you have some great practices but weak programs?
  • Tracking competencies and performance is no longer an option.  Programs that specifically address and provide innovation tools for improving communications and care processes must be measured.  Is your organization prepared to track resident/patient experience,  staff experience, family experience and business impact when innovative programs are put in place?
  • Programs can differentiate your organization from others.  Niche messaging to your prospective customers and families can improve reputation as a respected leader, improve employee retention and census.  Has your organization defined it’s niche with programs and education tools that set you apart from others?

Looking ahead to 2017 leaders across the spectrum are reassessing their program, practices, and how to best serve their customers, families and staff.   Initiatives that incorporate innovation, creativity, provide strong outcomes and measurable tools are desperately needed in today’s fast changing senior care arena.

See: Dementia Live™

 

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