As Population Diversifies, Rethinking How We Care For Elderly

As Population Diversifies, Rethinking How We Care For Elderly

The elderly population of the future may not look much like the old people of today. It will be less white and with fewer native English speakers. That means physicians, nurses, social workers and health aides will have to adapt to our increasingly diverse society, according to Peggye Dilworth-Anderson, professor, health policy & management, and interim co-director of the Institute on Aging at the University of North Carolina. She says that not understanding the “cultural context” of each patient can lead to inappropriate diagnoses and treatment and contribute to health disparities.

ilworth-Anderson presented her research recently at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, and afterward spoke with reporter Liz Seegert. Here is the edited interview:

What does cultural competency in health care mean? 

Many times, it comes down to trying to get inside the other person’s head, to find out where he or she is coming from, what the belief or value systems are, that make this person respond a certain way to health care.

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