Culture Issues in Long-Term Care

Special Populations Present Special Challenges

As the number of ethnic and minority populations age and as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community ages as well, being culturally aware will become more important in aging services. And serving these populations with respect and dignity will be a driving force behind true culture change. Culture issues in Long-Term Care are only beginning to show themselves.

Overview of Cultural Issues

David Malan

Alleged incidents of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment among different races, classes and religious groups in long-term care facilities has been reported. Being aware of cultural differences and knowing that they can impact care delivery is important. And the development of culturally sensitive programs can help bridge differences, positively impact care and lead to increased resident, family, and employee satisfaction.

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Cultural Sensitivity Training

Derek E. Rothchild

Cultural sensitivity training should discuss overall organizational cultural competence as well as focus on the specific population groups and/or health issues that are relevant to the community. A well-rounded program also should help clinicians with diagnostic issues, such as identifying health conditions specific to certain ethnic patient populations or conducting skin assessments for patients with skin of color. To provide cultural competence training organizations can use an existing training program, hire a consultant, create an in-house training program, or a combination. The primary benefit of using an established program is that it has been proven effective.

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Caring for the LGBT Community

Compassionate Eye Foundation/Chris Newton/OJO Images Ltd

The number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals over the age of 65 is expected to double over the next few decades. This population is no different in terms of the care they will need as they age. Yet policies around this population have not been developed and because of that caring for LGBT seniors is hampered because of social isolation, poor health outcomes, unequal treatment under the law and diminished economic security. There are currently about a dozen seniors-only housing developments that are marketed specifically to gays and lesbians. Experts expect the trend to continue. One in five gay and lesbian boomers reports being unsure of who will take care of them if they get sick, according to the MetLife Mature Market Institute study. Many gay seniors are taking a do-it-yourself approach to retirement by purchasing condos or homes with a group of other lesbians. This co-housing option is often cheaper than a retirement community. This group does have an advocate in SAGE, the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT older adults. SAGE has pioneered programs and services for the aging LGBT community, provided technical assistance and training to expand opportunities for LGBT older people across the country, and provided a national voice on LGBT aging issues.

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3 Things to Create a Welcoming Environment for LGBT Elders

Hilary Meyer, Director, National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. National Resource Center on LGBT Aging

There are 1.5 million LGBT adults over 65 in the United States and their number is expected to double by 2030. With more and more LGBT adults moving toward retirement age every day, it is critical that the organizations and agencies serving the over-65 population do everything possible to make LGBT seniors feel welcome.

To fully understand the unique needs of LGBT older adults, it is important to remember that, at some point in their lives, most LGBT people have suffered discrimination and prejudice from landlords, employers, health care workers and/or family members.  The resulting social isolation, depression, anxiety, and other physical and emotional problems have made many LGBT older adults wary of health care professionals and aging-services providers.

So what does an organization need to do to become – and show that it has become – a place where LGBT adults can feel at home?

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Home Health Care - Navigating Racial and Cultural Differences

Know your resident's story and you will be on the way to meaningful experiences and culture change.. Tom Grill

With homebound elders in fragile health and often with a litany of limitations, transcending racial, ethnic and cultural differences does not come easy. But with training, time and generous doses of sensitivity and compassion, home health aides and the people they care for bridge those divides in admirable and sometimes surprising ways. The secret lies in commitment, trust, respect and constant communication.

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Expect These Articles to Grow

Every day brings new headlines that call attention to special populations and their needs in society. But in an aging society, we often forget that these same populations are also growing older at home, in nursing homes, assisted living, even prisons. And that calls for real person centered care.

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