In a NZ research paper printed in NZ Medical Journal May 2005 entitled "Residential Care Workers & Residents: The NZ Story, it noted the residential care population was predominately Pakeha (98%) while the workforce is widely diverse consisting of mainly of Maori, Pacific Island and Asian ethnicity. And here lies the problem. Many people do not understand the culture of the very people that are paying their wages.
Now I am not saying that we shouldn't have a widely diverse cultural base providing care, what I am saying is we need to educate the caregivers to understand the culture of the person they are looking after - which is predominantly Pakeha.
Caregivers (including RN's & Managers) are servants to the people in their care. I know some people take exception to the word "servant". For some cultures it may have a negative connotation, but the fact is, we are there to serve those in our care. There is nothing negative about it. They pay our wages - all of us, regardless to whether they are subsidised or not. They have contributed to the tax system to enable them to have the care.
According to the NZ Nursing Council, any caregiver (or nurse) who diminishes, demeans or disempowers a person is culturally unsafe. I believe this happens more than we all realise. It is time we had a good look at our own practice and think about those in our care, be it long term residential care, acute care or primary health care.
So what does diminish, demean or disempower mean? Well I interpret it for long term care as, not dressing people for the season, or mobilising a person or not ensuring they have enough food, or not encouraged to do things themselves or ignoring their requests or laughing behind their backs, or not giving them enough information to make a decision or making judgments about them that they cant make a choice, or treating them to your culture, not the persons culture or getting a person to do something against their will ...... The list is endless.
Please think long and hard about the person or people you are caring for. Many of these people have lost their voice or the will to speak up. It is up to us to respect them, to find out about their likes and dislikes, their preferences. To realise that people sitting all day will get cold, not like you walking around and keeping warm. That maybe they can't eat the food put in front of them or they don't like it. Maybe their teeth don't fit properly or they have dental caries that are painful and they cant tell you. Maybe they need some complan to boost them. Maybe they are dehydrated as older people get blunted thirst and won't ask for a drink. The list is endless but we must always remember, Caring for someone who is not able to care for themselves is a privilege. It is not a means to a financial end for us.
So have a good look at the care you are delivering. Are you diminishing, demeaning or disempowering anyone in your care. Maybe it is a time of self reflection.
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