Welcome to Part II of this series where we will explore cultural competence in healthcare, more specifically in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care settings. Culture is a blueprint for how people behave. It helps us gain a much deeper understanding of the behavior of an individual. In each society there is a dominant culture which dictates the values that are shared by most of the members of that society. It is important for healthcare workers in assisted living settings and those caring for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia to understand that they come from a particular cultural background. Similarly, the patients they are caring for emerge from their own cultural framework. It is imperative that healthcare workers grasp the values and beliefs that they might share with patients as well as the cultural beliefs and values that might differ from their patients. At Mesa View Senior Assisted Living (and at our partner locations, Harbor View Senior Assisted Living and Bay View Assisted Living) we strive to provide culturally competent care to each of the members of our communities!
We will specifically explore cultural competence in elder care, assisted living, independent living, and memory care settings. This is becoming an increasingly important topic in the United States as our population becomes increasingly culturally and ethnically diverse. Providing culturally tailored care is imperative to the well-being of a patient diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or Louis body dementia. Cultural competence is ideally a collaborative effort in which patients and healthcare providers seek to understand one another’s perspectives. All memory care patients deserve to be treated in a non-judgemental way with permission for the diverse cultural perspectives that they might bring.
Ethnocentrism refers to the practice of being centered on one’s own cultural group and belief system. Ethnocentrism is the opposite of cultural relativism, which recognizes and appreciates the diversity of cultures and backgrounds. Healthcare staff in elder care and memory care settings might encounter individuals from a vast array of cultural backgrounds. Recognizing ethnocentrism and supporting cultural relativism in one’s self and in others is imperative to supporting cultural competence. The view of cultural sensitivity can be used as a building block, and starting point to construct new healthy perspectives. Many scholarly studies have shown ethnocentrism as a barrier to effective healthcare.
Rituals, according to Oxford Dictionaries, refer to a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. There are many rituals that people partake in, even in modern society, and each has their own meanings and symbolisms. Some rituals are used in weddings, funerals, healing, and even in childbirth. A cultural ritual is a practice, ceremony or sequence of events that is important to a particular cultural group. For example, if a member of an assisted living community in San Diego would like to have a chaplain visit them (virtually, of course!), this is a cultural ritual that is certainly harmless and is most likely helpful. This type of ritual should be supported and encouraged by the staff of the assisted living community. There may be, however, certain rituals that are harmful to a patient, such as fasting when very ill or denying medication in favor of supernatural healing. It is challenging but necessary for care providers to navigate situations where a patient insists on engaging in a harmful ritual.
At Mesa View Senior Assisted Living (and at our partner locations: Harbor View Senior Assisted Living and Bay View Assisted Living) we work hard to provide culturally competent care to each of our community members!