All cultures and ethnicities cherish their older family members, along with the memories and wisdom they have to offer, but caregiving experiences and approaches can vary across cultural and ethnic groups.
Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long on the land ….. Exodus 20:12
In a nation as diverse as the United States, we are exposed to an ever-growing diversity. We all have the best interests of our family in common, no matter what our origin or belief system. Multi-lingual caregivers, ethnic foods and holiday and religious celebrations are just a few of the signs of our multi cultural nation.
Each member of the caregiving circle brings their own experience to the partnership, no matter how diverse the background. Issues such as end-of-life care and advance directives may be impacted by cultural, societal, racial, religious and ethnic background.
For example, when families begin to hire help in their homes to support older family members they may consider cultural differences in approaches to caregiving. The professional caregiver may be someone whose cultural background is different from that of the care recipient. This may show itself in the way food is prepared, expectations the helper has of the family or expectations the older person has of the worker, to name but a few. Families can learn a lot about their own culture by seeing it with new eyes when they hire someone to assist them and begin to consider ways to orient that person to the family’s culture.
In addition people from different backgrounds, generations, cultures, education and experience often have different styles of communication. Caregiving expectations differ from culture to culture. Behavior that appears rude to some, may simply reflect cultural differences. Try not to make assumptions about people or let outside pressures force actions against family beliefs. In fact, old age is almost universally revered and honored in most nations around the world.
You might consider contacting an ethnic or faith-based organization for guidance on handling situations that arise due to ethnic or cultural differences. One such organization is www.ethnicelderscare.net
It might also be helpful to consider writing an ethical will. Included in an ethical will is the opportunity to share your values, culture, religious beliefs, blessings, life's lessons, hopes and dreams for the future, love, and forgiveness with your family, friends, and community. Examples of ethical wills can be found at www.ethicalwill.com/examples.html