Cultural Awareness for Caregivers
What is the purpose of cultural awareness?
Cultural awareness is an understanding of other people’s cultures and the way that cultural values and patterns affect the everyday life and behaviors of the people around us. It helps us understand the similarities and differences between ourselves and other people, and facilitates friendlier interactions among people who are different than us. Cultural awareness is a tool that can ease communications and interactions with people of different ethnicities and backgrounds, and for individuals who are in a setting where they will be working with other cultures, it’s an absolutely essential mindset to develop. Working toward cultural awareness is a process that takes time and commitment, but it’s definitely worth the effort to become aware of the cultural differences of the people around you.
Cultural awareness for caregivers fosters a deep understanding of oneself. It can be enlightening and even surprising to analyze your own culture and perspectives in depth. Most people aren’t actively aware of their unique beliefs and practices, and even just a simple assessment of your daily practices can reveal multiple cultural behaviors you may have never noticed before. When a person clearly understands their home culture, they’re better equipped to understand and empathize with individuals from a different culture. Cultural awareness is intended to highlight and respect the similarities and differences between humans from different backgrounds, and it’s a vital skill for any modern professional to cultivate as social settings become more globalized. With cultural awareness comes cultural sensitivity, something that’s required by anyone who expects to be working with people from other cultures.
How do you show cultural awareness?
As a caregiver, there are many different ways to show cultural awareness, and though some ways may seem small or subtle, even the slightest demonstration of awareness can make a significant difference toward having positive intercultural interactions and relationships with patients. While cultural awareness seems like a simple adjustment on the surface, developing true awareness takes time and dedication and a fair amount of learning. For some people, showing cultural awareness comes naturally, while for other people it takes a bit more effort and adjustment to maintain awareness. No matter where you’re at in your individual development, here are a few of the most straightforward and generous ways to exercise your awareness:
● Become aware of your own culture and value system. The first step toward cultural awareness is to develop the ability to understand your own behaviors and culture. Understanding others starts with an understanding of yourself. When you begin to understand your own behaviors and your reasons for acting, you can begin to understand other people’s behaviors better too, which leads to greater harmony among different cultures.
● Acknowledge what you don’t know. When you become aware of the possibility that you don’t know or understand something about another person’s culture and their personal worldview, you become more culturally aware. Realizing that you don’t know everything about someone else’s culture can make room for empathy and understanding of the other person.
● Adapt to being in unfamiliar situations. Often when a caregiver is working with individuals from different cultural backgrounds, they will encounter situations that are unfamiliar. This is due to the varied cultural rules and expectations of the person they’re working with, and the differences between their home cultures. Show your cultural awareness by being willing to adapt to these situations and change your behavior accordingly.
● Educate yourself. If you’re a caregiver for someone from a different culture, familiarizing yourself with your patient’s culture and their possible expectations is extremely important. If you understand something about their culture, you’ll be able to provide better care and ask more targeted questions that will facilitate a deeper mutual understanding.
● Have empathy for the person you’re working with. How would you feel if you were in their place? Even if you don’t completely understand the fine nuances of their culture and values, you can still empathize with their situation and appreciate their humanity.
● Avoid judgment. Many times, a lack of cultural awareness comes from negatively judging the other person’s culture. As a caregiver, it’s important to put your judgments and personal opinions about your patient’s culture to the side. Be aware that there may be a misunderstanding (or many misunderstandings), and try to understand the situation from a different angle. This is one of the core principles of cultural awareness.
What are the benefits of cultural awareness?
As a caregiver, cultural awareness comes with many benefits, both personally and socially. Our success in life is largely built on awareness of ourselves, other people, and our environment, and cultural awareness only increases our success in forming productive relationships with other people and with the world around us. Being aware of other cultures is a gift that facilitates powerful communication between people everywhere. By developing cultural awareness, you open up your world and make yourself available to those in need by being a safe caregiver for people from other places and from different walks of life.
Besides being a crucial aspect of intercultural communication and interaction, cultural awareness also makes people become more intimately aware of themselves and the people from their native culture. Having cultural awareness can help you understand why your individual behaviors, your values or beliefs, and your unique world perspective. Having cultural awareness means that you’re aware of all cultures and the impact of culture on everyone around you, including yourself and people from your home culture! This self-reflection process is a necessary step toward cultural awareness, and for many people it’s an extraordinarily rewarding and meaningful process to examine their home culture and the impact of culture in their daily lives.
Why Cultural Awareness Is Important for Caregivers
For caregivers who are working with individuals from other cultures, cultural awareness is one of the most important skills that can be developed. Taking care of someone in a private care setting is sure to reveal cultural differences that may surprise unprepared caregivers, and lack of cultural awareness in these situations can lead to unfortunate miscommunications between the caregiver and their patients. Caregivers who are in the position of caring for someone from a different culture have a huge responsibility, but when cultural awareness is achieved it can be satisfying and an honor to be that person’s caregiver. Both the caregiver and the patient are likely to be apprehensive and nervous about the potential for miscommunication. But, the caregiver is in a position where a sufficient degree of cultural awareness and sensitivity can be a key to helping their patient feel safe and comfortable, even despite the cultural differences between the two of them.
Before caring for a person from another culture, it’s smart to read and learn something about their culture beforehand so that you’re better prepared. For example, gestures that are generally considered to be comforting in western culture (like a light touch on the shoulder) may be offensive according to the rules of a different culture. A basic understanding of and appreciation for your patient’s home culture rules will help you offer better care and support as a caregiver. However, keep in mind that every person has their own personal interpretation of their culture and its rules! Even though a particular culture may generally view touch between strangers as negative, the person you’re working with may have a different perspective based on their life circumstances. For caregivers, cultural awareness is important in this context because it encourages true and authentic understanding of the patient and their personal culture as well as the influence of the patient’s home culture on their individual worldview.
Patients usually want a caregiver who is understanding of their culture and who is experienced in the appropriate behaviors, values, and beliefs of that culture. Because the patient and caregiver will be interacting regularly, it’s a high priority for both individuals that an adequate understanding can be reached quickly and comfortably. Empathy and balance is more likely to be attained when a patient is matched with a caregiver who already knows something about their home culture; in this context, cultural awareness becomes important on a deeper and more personal level, and the caregiver can learn about the patient’s individual perspective right away. With CDPAP, it’s possible for the patient to choose their own caregiver, making it possible for them to hand pick someone who understands their culture and values. CDPAP allows patients to even elect a qualified relative or friend as their caregiver in order to reduce stress and the potential for miscommunication.
With CDPAP, patients can choose their own caregiver to maximize the chances that they will have a positive care experience on a cultural level, but no matter who they choose as their caregiver, patients appreciate cultural awareness. Caregivers who take care of patients from different cultures are in a challenging, yet amazing position where they’re able to learn about their patient’s culture from the inside out. While working with other cultures certainly comes with its own set of difficulties for both caregivers and patients, it’s also a powerful and enlightening experience that can be a possibility for growth and learning for everyone.