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

July 12, 2013

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.

IMG_2036-2394736898-Oc

(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%. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(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.


State of the Agency Highlights

June 27, 2013

Senior Community Centers is closing out Fiscal Year 2012/2013 and we are ready to face any challenges that the new year may bring. As we highlight our milestones and future growth opportunities, I am thankful for the supporters we have welcomed to our family over the past 40+ years.

During our State of the Agency reception, one of our first board members who began her service in 1972, had the chance to meet newly appointed board members. Young professionals who thrive in their roles as board interns shared creative ideas for introducing new friends to the organization. A senior client who is a part of our supportive housing program, showcased his musical talent side-by-side with our Support Services Case Manager. Senior Community Centers is the type of organization that creates lifelong friendships and fosters mutually beneficial relationships for everyone involved. Our success and wide reach in the community is a result of these relationships.

IMG_2297c

(Tommy, resident at Potiker Family Senior Residence, and Joe, Support Services Case Manager performed together to kick off our meeting)

We work together to keep low-income seniors healthy and we defer the need for long-term care by stepping in where this vulnerable population needs us most. With the help of our friends and over 40+ years of experience, Senior Community Centers is able to:

  • Serve more meals to even more seniors
  • Expand case management services in multiple languages
  • Add transitional housing units to our homeless prevention program
  • Offer new and exciting community education classes
  • Invest in pilot programs to virtually connect home-bound clients

If you would like to become a part of this outstanding family that has so much to offer, please choose your level of involvement from Senior Community Centers’  How To Help list or consider becoming a volunteer.



%d bloggers like this: