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.

Call to Action: Contact Congress to Exempt Senior Nutrition Programs from Sequestration

March 13, 2013 - Paul Downey

Please take a moment and contact your congressional representatives to let them know how important senior nutrition programs are – not only for the seniors we serve, but also for the community as a whole. Find out more in the video below:

Call, write, email, tweet and Facebook our congressional delegation and U.S. Senators and tell them to end the partisan games and get to work. Here is a complete Advocacy Toolkit with all the contact information you need! It is time for us to stop putting up with the dysfunction that passes for leadership and demand that politicians come together for the good of our nation. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3:

1) CLICK ON YOUR REPRESENTATIVE’S NAME  

(Not sure who your rep is? Find out here!)

United States Senate Representatives

Senator Barbara Boxer (D); Ph: 619-239-3884

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D); Ph: 619-231-9712

United States House Representatives

49th District: Rep. Darrell Issa (R); Ph: (760) 599-5000

50th District: Rep. Duncan Hunter (R); Ph: (619) 448-5201

51st District: Rep. Juan Vargas (D); Ph: (619) 422-5963

52nd District: Rep. Scott Peters (D); Ph: (858) 455-5550

53rd District: Rep. Susan Davis (D); Ph: (619) 280-5353

2) COPY AND PASTE THE MESSAGE BELOW INTO THE EMAIL OR WEBFORM THAT OPENS AUTOMATICALLY:

Dear [Senator/Representative],

I am urging you to protect senior nutrition programs from the sequester ordered on March 1.  Sequestration will eliminate over 100,000 meals for seniors in San Diego and 4 million meals nationwide. The impact of the sequester could be far greater than lack of nutritious meals for a vulnerable population who is often more isolated and in the greatest economic or social need.  Frequently, the meal that is provided through senior nutrition programs is their only guaranteed source of nutrition each day.

The longer term impact of these cuts could be that some of these older adults will end up in hospitals and or nursing homes due to health issues related to the failure to maintain a proper diet.  This, in turn, will add significant costs to Medicare and Medicaid at a time when efforts are being made to reduce these costs. 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.

We hope you will insist to exempt senior nutrition programs from sequester to avert a human tragedy which will befall some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society.  Thank you for your consideration and support.

Sincerely,

3) SEND YOUR EMAIL & TELL YOUR FRIENDS TO DO THE SAME

Senior Community Centers will also hold a Media Event on Thursday, March 14, 2013 to showcase how San Diego Seniors stand Against Sequestration.

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