Caregiving is a role that spans across every population including religion and ethnicity. However the differences in caring for a loved one, especially culturally, often vary and may include traditions handed down from previous generations.
As an African-American woman, I am often reminded of this as I care for my mother who is living with Alzheimer’s disease. Growing up, we frequently shared the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” In my community, the same philosophy applies to parents. When my mother’s dementia progressed to the point where she could no longer care for herself, I decided to take care of her at home. While it is not always easy, it is rewarding to know that she is constantly surrounded by loving care.
In Chinese culture, there is a longstanding Confucian philosophy of filial piety, which is a virtue of respect for one’s parents, elders and ancestors. In fact, Beijing enacted a law in 2013 that stipulates, “Family members living apart from the elderly should frequently visit or send greetings to the elderly persons.” I can only imagine the guilt and shame some of those adult children, especially those who are working and with families of their own, must feel who may have inadvertently violated the law.
Within the Hispanic community, maintaining a social appearance and respect of elders is important. Therefore, caregiving becomes primarily a family activity. However, in the Hispanic community, a strong cultural commitment to family can result in increased caregiver stress.
I’m part of an Alzheimer’s caregiver Facebook group as not only a source of support but to see how others are dealing with the day-to-day challenges of caregiving. What I’ve discovered is that caregiver burnout is not relegated to only one culture or racial group, it’s very real and no one is immune. Although our caregiving challenges are different, such as the stages of Alzheimer’s and related dementias, our love and commitment to our loved one is universally the same across all racial and cultural lines.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, cultural values and norms have both a physical and emotional effect on the health of caregivers and the loved ones they care for. As a caregiver, I’ve learned that despite my deeply rooted family beliefs in honoring and caring for my mother, I must first find a healthy balance of care for myself so that I am empowered to carry on the honored tradition of providing care to another.
As a caregiver, it’s also important to remember that you are not alone. Talk to someone if you are overwhelmed. Reach out to friends and family or find a support group. Take time for yourself. Many senior living communities, Brookdale included, offer respite stay. Take your loved one to a community for a weekend while you enjoy some time to yourself. If the time is right, look into senior living permanently. Brookdale offers many levels of care and can tailor needs to your loved one.
I invite you to share your caregiving experience. How has your culture shaped how you care for your loved one?