Finding the perfect long-term care facility for a loved one can be very stressful, especially if they are an ethnic/racial minority. Studies have shown that elderly residents from different racial backgrounds experience a much lower quality of life compared to white residents in the same communities.
Additionally, most minority groups have higher rates of chronic disease and other health concerns. This means it is very important to find a senior living community that will provide equitable care among all of its residents.
So, how can you find an anti-discriminatory long-term care facility that is equity-focused? In this article, I explain racial and ethnic disparities to be aware of in long-term care facilities and what questions you should ask while visiting a facility. These questions ensure your loved one will be treated fairly and with compassion.
Racial and Ethnic Disparities
Individuals of minority ethnic/racial backgrounds are more likely to incur chronic diseases or other major health concerns. African Americans have the highest death rate for most cancers and are more likely to have high blood pressure compared to the white population. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest rates of liver and stomach cancers and are twice as likely to die from these cancers.
The proportion of racial/ethnic minority residents in long-term care facilities has quickly increased and is expected to exceed the proportion of white residents by 2030. In a study that researched residents in nursing homes from 1998 and 2008, it was found that the number of Hispanic residents grew by 54.9%, Asian residents grew by 54.1%, and African American residents increased by 10.8%. During this same time, the proportion of white residents declined by 10.2%. This increase in residents of color allows more individuals of minority groups to get the senior care they need to stay healthy.
Unfortunately, these residents of color are more likely to experience a lower quality of living (QOL) in their senior living communities. QOL is a complex rating that refers to the residents’ individual, self-reported well-being. The Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota did a recent study that found residents from minority racial/ethnic backgrounds experienced a lower QOL even if they lived in a facility with a higher proportion of minority residents.
This begs the question: Is there racism in long-term care facilities?
The likely answer is yes, just like with any other profession or social community. So, how can you combat this to guarantee you find a facility that offers the highest QOL for their residents of all backgrounds and cultures?
The most important thing to do is to tour the facility. While you are touring, ask these questions to determine if the facility is a good fit for your elderly loved one:
1. Do They Have Anti-Racism Policies in Place?
Today, racism among employees is a major problem that companies have to face. This is no exception for the caregivers and staff in senior living communities. When touring a facility, ask if they have any anti-racism policies in place.
These policies are common in most communities and help create a safe and accepting environment for people of all ethnicities. If they have anti-racism policies, be sure to read them and ensure it explains how people can report racism in the facility as well as the steps that should be taken if a caregiver is being discriminatory.
Additionally, elderly individuals have a chance of becoming more discriminatory as they age due to deteriorating mental health. The facility should have clear policies set for when a resident might act poorly towards other residents.
Reviewing these policies is important because it shows how prepared the facility is for racism in their community as well as how dedicated they are to creating a safe and inviting place of living.
2. Does The Staff Go Through Anti-Racism Training?
Anti-racism training is vital for a healthy community that treats all of its residents equally. This training highlights the dangers of racism, why it is important to be on the lookout for and fight racism, as well as how to report racism in the community. It also teaches the caregivers how to be patient, compassionate, and understanding with residents of color.
Ask if the facility has this training and if they require all caregivers to complete it. If they do, there is a higher chance that they are better prepared to care for a minority ethnic/racial individual.
3. Do They Have Potential Staff Translators?
As people age, life can become increasingly more lonely and emotionally challenging. Communication is super important in senior care communities, not only with the caregivers but also with other residents. More communication has beneficial effects on mental health in the elderly.
If your loved one speaks another language and isn’t completely fluent in English, it is super important to make sure the facility you are touring has a potential translator. Ask if you can meet them and make sure they are patient and compassionate.
Most seniors need someone who they can open up to and talk with comfortably. Try to determine if this translator will be able to provide this level of intimate care to your loved one.
4. Do They Celebrate Different Cultures?
Ask the facility if their staff organize and encourage participation in activities celebrating different cultures. If the community celebrates holidays or events that your loved one celebrates in their culture, this can give them a better sense of belonging. This often allows the residents to feel at home and allows them to share their culture with others.
5. Are They Good Listeners?
When talking with the different caregivers and staff, pay attention to if they are good listeners. Are they empathetic, compassionate, and patient when talking to you or your loved one? This shows that they really try to make the elderly feel cared for and heard.
6. What Kind of Food Do They Serve?
During the tour, they will most likely talk to you about the food they serve. Think about the different kinds of food that they offer. Do they diversify their meals to include food from all different cultures? If the community serves food from your loved ones’ ethnic background, this can make your loved one feel at home.
7. What Are The Residents Like?
Lastly, pay attention to the other residents in the facility. Is there anyone of the same descent as your loved one? How many residents are minority ethnic/racial individuals compared to white residents?
Being in a community that has a low proportion of the same ethnicity could make your loved one feel like an outcast or lonely. Look to see if other residents are of the same race who might be able to connect with your loved one.
Finding the right senior care community for your elderly loved one can be very difficult but is extremely important. Confirm that the facility is equity-focused and can provide the specific care your loved one needs. If you follow the advice in this article, it will become easier to pick the perfect facility that ensures a high quality of life for all residents.