Cultural Sensitivity in Senior Living: It Matters

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 29 November 2012

Sometimes a language barrier prevents caregivers from accessing vital resources. Sometimes a cultural difference prevents patients from getting appropriate care. Sometimes a communication breakdown is less of a personality clash and more a lack of sensitivity.

A recent article from SeniorCareSociety.com presents a list of resources for culturally diverse families. Writer Carrie Steckl shared that, in addition to facing language barriers, some families are experiencing the emotional strain of long-distance caregiving for seniors living overseas. Check out the resource suggestions here.

The millions currently serving as informal caregivers (largely unpaid; usually family members) have been called the backbone of the long term care system. We need them desperately. An awareness of their needs, and any efforts to meet them, must include a component of cultural sensitivity.

It’s something we can all work on, and we don’t need to learn a second language to do it. Here’s an example…

  • Problem: Your mother-in-law seems agitated every time the home care aide comes over. When you ask her why, she says that the aide is preparing food that she doesn’t like.
  • Solution: Share recipes from your family’s culture with the home care aide. Ask her to prepare these foods instead.


Sometimes the problems and solutions are more complex, but if you don’t talk about the problem or make the caregiver aware of it, nothing will change.

Your turn: What resources have been meaningful to your culturally diverse caregiving family?



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