Successful Aging In the Division of General Medical Disciplines

Impact of Cultural Factors on Geriatric Care

Cultural Differences

Culture works to create differences in explanations of disease and treatment:

  1. Western biomedical allopathic health care has its own culture (e.g., knowledge, beliefs, skills, values) based on scientific assumptions and processes, producing definitions and explanations of disease. Older patients familiar with other health traditions may rely more on factors such as balance (e.g. yin/yang), or spiritual interventions (e.g. soul loss, or God’s will) to explain physical states.
  2. People may identify conditions that do not match those found in biomedical references, such as susto (fright), or wind illness, yet these conditions can have a direct impact on health care, adherence to recommended treatment, and full communication between patient and provider. These culturally defined somatic disorders and culture-bound syndromes with their own beliefs about treatment (e.g. coining and cupping for wind illness, or animal sacrifice for soul loss) may make the practice of culturally appropriate geriatrics complex. For example, Western trained providers may not know whether the herbal medicines prescribed by a Chinese herbalist contain ingredients that might enhance or interfere with diabetic medications prescribed by Western physicians.
  3. Contrasting values of independence vs. community/ family may result in conflicting expectation of the involvement of others in providing care.

Ethnocentrism

definition

DEFINITION: Ethnocentrism is the belief or attitude that oneís own cultural view is the only correct view. Western biomedical allopathic health care has its own culture (e.g., knowledge, beliefs, skills, values) based on scientific assumptions and processes, producing definitions and explanations of disease. Older patients familiar with other health traditions may rely more on factors such as balance (e.g. yin/yang), or spiritual interventions (e.g. soul loss, or Godís will) to explain physical states. People may identify conditions that do not match those found in biomedical references, such as susto (fright), or wind illness, yet these conditions can have a direct impact on health care, adherence to recommended treatment, and full communication between patient and provider. These culturally defined somatic disorders and culture-bound syndromes with their own beliefs about treatment (e.g. coining and cupping for wind illness, or animal sacrifice for soul loss) may make the practice of culturally appropriate geriatrics complex.

For example, Western-trained providers may not know whether the herbal medicines prescribed by a Chinese herbalist contain ingredients that might enhance or interfere with diabetic medications prescribed by Western physicians. Contrasting values of independence vs. community/ family may result in conflicting expectation of the involvement of others in providing care.

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