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In today's world, with an ever-expanding demographic of residents entering long term care homes, it is critical to develop strategies that promote diversity and inclusion.
Cultural diversity has many dimensions; language, race, religious beliefs, ethnicity, etc. To support cultural diversity, care homes need what is known as cultural competence.
Cultural Competence is defined as a set of behaviors, attitudes, and practices that equip healthcare providers with the knowledge to deliver culturally appropriate care. It is so important to foster a workforce that is free of prejudice, bias, and stereotyping.
Two Essentials of Cultural Competence
Cultural competence is developed over time and includes self-awareness, guidance, training and experience. Embracing cultural diversity and promoting inclusion are two aspects of cultural competence.
Embracing cultural diversity means appreciating the differences in individuals from a variety of cultural and ethnic groups within an organization. Inclusion refers to the right of those groups to participate and have equity in all aspects of life.
A culture that celebrates cultural diversity & promotes inclusion must be interwoven into the framework of your facility's culture so that all residents feel like they belong. Residents must feel valued, respected, and unafraid to bring their backgrounds and perspectives to light.
Why Cultural Competence is Important
Unfortunately, studies indicate that there is often a disparity in the provision of quality care to residents from diverse cultural backgrounds. The reasons for these discrepancies vary from differences in beliefs and practices, language barriers, non-adherence to treatments, differences in lifestyle, thinking style, philosophy of life and other traits.
Unchallenged, this gap can lead to:
- Inappropriate care
- Social isolation
- Discrimination and stereotyping
- Emotional disturbances: frustration/sadness/depression
- Ineffective Communication
How to Create a Culture of Inclusion
Staff can promote inclusion by being aware of the cultures represented in their organization and:
- Paying attention to the nuances of each culture
- Addressing communication barriers with interpreters and language cards
- Protecting residents from all forms of discrimination by counseling anyone whose words and actions reflect ethnic prejudice
- Including in Activity Programs engaging stories, deeds or triumphs regarding people from different countries
- Responding to residents with respect, tolerance and compassion
- Facilitating religious practices and needs
- Being patient and understanding with long-held beliefs that are not among the dominant mainstream
Activity Program calendars should include cultural activities throughout the year. Celebrating and sharing food, music, and humour is one of the best ways to promote goodwill and tolerance.
Remember that you are there to integrate clients into your community. ‘Fitting-in' is important for everyone. Don't assume or generalize about how a client should behave without regard for individual differences and unique circumstances.
10 Tips for Embracing Cultural Diversity in Your Workplace
- Commit to boosting your own cultural competence by attending conferences and taking courses on cultural issues. Start by taking an interest in your colleagues from other countries.
- Remember that the golden rule "treat others as you would like to be treated" does not always apply when dealing with a diverse population. This proverb presumes that the person shares your worldview and passions. Instead, "Treat others the way they want to be treated" should be your guiding rule.
- Increase your pool of volunteers by attracting those who are sensitive to cultural issues and speak several languages.
- Involve residents' friends and relatives and encourage them to share recipes or volunteer for a cooking session.
- Celebrate clients' heritage with a ‘Finger Food Fest'. Have your kitchen staff prepare finger foods from the countries represented at your facility e.g. Dolmades, Falafel, Sushi, Samosas, Cornbread, Arepas, Fried Plantains.
- Feature a once-a-year party ‘Around the World in Fancy Dresses' where your clients can proudly showcase their traditional attire.
- Hold a poetry session with translated poems from famous non-English speaking poets relevant to your current residents like Pushkin, Rabindranath Tagore, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, and many others.
- Learn through phonetic dictionaries and translation cards the basic sentences and words of other languages.
- Establish procedures to identify and manage potential discrimination among staff and clients.
- Celebrate the national days of countries represented where you work. Read short, positive information about each country.