Cultural Competency: A Closer Look at San Diego’s Asian American Senior Population

July 12, 2013 - Paul Downey

The number of Asian seniors who benefit from our culturally competent services is growing. I am happy to announce that as of July 1, our Mandarin-speaking supportive services case manager Maggie will be available to serve our seniors full-time from Monday through Friday.

25% of the seniors we support at the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center are Asian and of that, 14% are Chinese.

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(At Senior Community Centers’ Chinese New Year Celebration)

Working with culturally diverse seniors is very rewarding and can be challenging at the same time, especially when it comes to something as important as addressing healthcare needs that could prevent seniors from living healthy and independent lives.

According a recent cultural competency workshop by Yawen Li, PhD, Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work at San Diego State University, Asian health beliefs attribute illness to karma or curses. Combined with strong superstitions and putting a lot of power into alternative healing methods, Western medicine may be the very last resort to get help. While respecting the beliefs of Asian cultures, our support services team is ready help in a culturally competent way.

Since inception of the Chinese Outreach Program in 2011, our Mandarin-speaking case manager has conducted over 1,000 visits helping nearly 200 clients. The resolution rate for medical issues is over 90%. 

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(Maggie and a senior at the Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center)

Our success rate is in part due to our collaborative partnerships, ongoing cultural competency training and dedicated staff members like Maggie. The following list shows ways to bridge some of the cultural differences between Asian American traditions and Western habits:

  • Be aware of differences among Asian American ethnicities
  • Avoid using stereotypes as portrayed in US media
  • Be aware of non-verbal cues as Asian Americans can be very sensitive to non-verbal communication (lack of eye contact implies not being respectful or not paying attention)
  • Use a title instead of calling by direct name
  • Work closely with family members that were identified by the senior as  the representative of the family
  • Be considerate of the high respect for authority figures within extended family and that the behavior or achievements of one person reflects on the entire family
  • Be aware that mental illness is seen as having “a bad gene” and is highly stigmatized
  • Explain problems and treatment alternatives clearly and be ready to have recommendations
  • Make sure the senior and family members understand what you are trying to communicate; nodding heads may just signify paying respect rather than understanding
  • Western cultures focus on self-expression through language while eastern cultures focus on affect and non-verbal expression
  • Language may not accommodate all that the individual thinks and feels

We are happy to have Maggie on our team full-time to help bridge some of the cultural differences to help seniors in need live a healthy and independent life. Find out here how you can support the Chinese Outreach and Case Management Program.

Seniors and Sex: Older, Wiser, Safer

March 20, 2013 - Paul Downey

When the spring flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping and the bees are buzzing, spring romance is just around the corner. Love is in the air and everyone is catching spring fever, including the seniors at Senior Community Centers, who are still dating, being social and being active.

Dating Seniors

Christine Holcomb, RN, Senior Community Centers lead nurse, she says “Just because you’re 60 or 80 doesn’t mean you don’t date anymore; it just changes the dynamics.” That’s why it’s important for seniors to have “the talk” with a trusted health care professional or family member to understand the issues surrounding safer sex.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2006 to 2010 reported cases of STDs in people ages 55 and up increased dramatically.

It is important to remember that safe sex should be practiced at all ages. Here are four tips to help seniors protect themselves in the bedroom:

  • Know Your Partner. Before engaging in any sexual relationship, you should know your partner’s sexual history and let each other know if you have ever been tested for STDs, what the test results were, and if either of you have participated in illegal drug use. HIV/AIDS can be transmitted via hypodermic needle.
  • Get Tested Together. The best way to protect yourself and your partner is for the two of you to get tested for HIV and other STDs before you start having sex.
  • Use a Condom. Until you are in a committed relationship and know each other’s status and history, make certain to use a condom every time you have sex.
  • Talk to Your Doctor. If you have additional questions regarding sex and how to protect yourself, consult with your health care provider.

Sex is a healthy part of aging. When seniors protect themselves from STDs, they can continue living a long, active life and they can enjoy their Spring romance in their future.

The full article was first posted on February 12, 2013 by Patch.com.

Long-term Impact of Cutting Senior Nutrition Program Funding

March 14, 2013 - Paul Downey

The Administration estimates that as many as 4 million meals to older adults could be eliminated as a result of the sequester.  In San Diego County, over 100,000 meals will be cut and Senior Community Centers will loose funding for 32,000 meals.

These cuts are particularly devastating at a time when the need and demand for senior nutrition programs is growing at an unprecedented pace.  Local organizations who provide nutrition for seniors will soon be forced to take one or more of the following actions:

  • Eliminate or reduce meals;
  • Eliminate or reduce staff who serve older adults;
  • Reduce the quality of the meal; and/or
  • Reduce the number of delivery days.

These actions will cause enormous hardship to many older adults who need good nutrition to remain healthier, more independent and out of long-term care facilities.

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 A Senior Community Centers home-delivered meals driver is bringing lunch to one of our clients. With sequestration going forward, services like these may be drastically reduced nationwide.

Senior nutrition programs serve a distinct group of older adults who are often more isolated and in the greatest economic or social need.  Frequently, the meal that is provided is their only guaranteed source of nutrition each day.The long-term impact of cutting senior nutrition programs could be:

  • Older adults will end up in hospitals and or nursing homes due to health issues related to the failure to maintain a proper diet.
  • Hospital stays will add significant costs to Medicare and Medicaid at a time when efforts are being made to reduce these costs.

Join me in urging Congress to exempt senior nutrition programs from sequestration! We should be investing in these valuable nutrition programs as a means to avoid increasing federal expenditures, not cutting back on them when they are needed most.

Find all the tools you need for contacting your representatives here!

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