How Do You Eat An Elephant?

…one bite at a time! This post kicks off a series on creative caregiving with various cultural groups that we may encounter as eldercare professionals. As such, it falls under the very large umbrella of developing “cultural competence.” Wait – let’s make the font match:


Depending on your educational background, you may or may not have heard this term before, but believe me – this is important for all of us. That’s because we work in a diverse society, where we will inevitably work alongside and in service of people from a variety of backgrounds. Our clients are diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual identity, language, acculturation, socioeconomic status, and more. Cultural competence means understanding the effects of a client’s cultural background as it relates to their health and the care that we provide as professional caregivers. This means:
  • Taking the time to learn where a person is coming from.
  • Honoring that person’s history and understanding of the world.
  • Observing and recognizing your own cultural biases.
  • Not assuming anything based on the color of someone’s skin or the language they speak, but having a basis from which to ask questions.
  • Integrating all of this knowledge into the care you provide.
If figuring this all out seems like it takes an awful lot of time and effort, you’re right. It does take time and effort. That effort is necessary, though. Consider this:
  • According to the Center on Aging Society, by 2050, ethnically and racially diverse minorities will make up about 35% of the population over the age of 65.
  • Compared to the majority white population, racial and ethnic minorities have higher morbidity and mortality rates from cancer, diabetes, anxiety, depression, and other chronic conditions.
  • If we as service providers are not working to provide culturally competent care, then our clients are at a higher risk of negative health consequences.
Okay, so this cultural competence stuff is important, but it’s also overwhelming. How many cultural groups are there just in my city? How many languages can I possibly learn? How do I even begin to find out how to connect with my lady from Vietnam who doesn’t remember English and hits people everytime they try to get her out of bed? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. In this series, we will just barely begin to scratch the surface of cultural knowledge of a few different ethnic groups. This is just a start, but it is a start nonetheless. We have to start somewhere, with the intention that we’ll keep learning and keep growing as time goes on. Get out your forks! (or chopsticks…)]]>

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