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Picking a Culturally Sensitive Caregiver

Be sure to do research and ask the right questions

En español | Many older people, due to their cultural backgrounds, have firm views on caregiving. These may include:  

  • A sense that the family should provide all facets of care for their loved one.
  •  Resistance to medical intervention, medical professionals and any nonfamily caregivers.
  • Wariness about any arrangement that could distance the care recipient from his or her family.

 

Bringing in outside help
Before arranging for services from outside the family, consider the following:

  • If at all possible, find a caregiver from the same cultural, ethnic or religious background as your loved one.
  •  If you can't find someone who meets those criteria, talk with your loved one about how he or she would feel with a person of a different culture or religion providing care. Emphasize the need to respect whoever is helping, and ask your loved one to raise any complaints about the care with you — not directly with the caregiver.
  • Make sure your loved one understands the extent of the care you are discussing. Some folks may not mind a difference in culture when it comes to transportation needs, for example, but may feel differently in the case of hands-on personal care.
  • If your loved one is not able to tell you how he or she would feel, use your best judgment or consult with someone else who's familiar with his or her cultural beliefs.

 

Finding an agency with a good cultural fit
A good home care provider will understand and meet your family's needs regarding culture. Start your search by contacting an agency affiliated with your loved one's ethnic background. You can also ask for referrals from or post an ad within any cultural organizations your loved one belongs to or identifies with. If that search yields nothing, look for agencies with a track record of providing good care to people of varied cultural backgrounds. 

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Does the agency have staff who are familiar with your loved one's cultural beliefs? (Be sure to address any religious or sexual orientation beliefs, too, if applicable.)
  • Are bilingual staff available?
  •  Does staff training include cultural tolerance?
  • Can they accommodate schedules around specific holidays or observances?
  • How flexible is the agency in finding the right fit for your loved one? How many potential employees will they allow you to interview?
  • Is there a probationary or trial period for you to assess compatibility?

When interviewing a prospective employee, you may want to ask the following:

  • Can/will you cook the foods we want for our loved one?
  • Do you have experience meeting cultural needs?
  • If a care recipient makes comments that offend your beliefs, how do you respond?

 

Resources:

  • The Provider's Guide to Quality & Culture website is a joint project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and three other federal agencies. It has sections for African Americans, Arab Americans, Asian Americans, Central Asians, Hispanics/Latinos, Muslims/Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and South Asians.
  •  Family Caregiver Alliance (Caregiver.org) has fact sheets on caregiving in Spanish and Chinese.
  • Association of Jewish Aging Services: AJAS.org.
  • National Association for Hispanic Elderly (Asociación Nacional Pro Personas Mayores): ANPPM.org.
  • National Asian Pacific Center on Aging: NAPCA.org.
  • National Indian Council on Aging: NICOA.org.
  • Islamic Society of North America: ISNA.net.
  • Program for Multicultural Health at the University of Michigan has a list of "Multicultural Health Generalizations by Culture" at Med.umich.edu/Multicultural.
  • Next Step in Care has a brochure in English, Spanish, Chinese and Russian on "Becoming a Family Caregiver": Nextstepincare.org.

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