Racism and LTC

Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:


Racism and LTC

A friend of mine called me this week, upset about the racial tension making headlines in the news. We discussed what we could do as individuals to improve the situation.

“I called a friend of mine of a different race,” she said. “I told him we need to stay in touch right now, even if we’re busy.”

“My column this week is about the issue,” I responded. We talked about how differences are bridged in a healthcare environment.

In long-term care, we provide services to, and work with, individuals from backgrounds different than our own. Residents share rooms and break bread with types of people they may never have encountered more than superficially in their previous 80 years of life. Barriers recede when we come to know each other as people, yet it’s not always a smooth road.

Studies of racism in LTC

I’ve observed firsthand various culturally charged interactions — both positive and negative — and I wondered what types of racial challenges are common in long-term care.

I turned to the research to see what’s been studied formally and found that racism is observed in the following ways:

• Residents refusing care based on the racial or ethnic group of the caregiver, as noted in the New England Journal of Medicine article, “Dealing with Racist Patients.”

• Unpleasant work environments due to hearing racial remarks by family members or other workers, in “Racism Reported by Direct Care Workers in Long-Term Care Settings.”

• Nursing homes in areas with high poverty being more likely to close: “Why Medicaid’s Racism Drove Historically-Black Nursing Home Bankrupt.”

• The changing demographics of nursing homes due to people from minority groups having increased entrance to that level of care, but reduced access to privately paid home and community-based care such as assisted living: MedicareAdvocacy.org, “The Changing Demographics of Nursing Home Care: Greater Minority Access…Good News, Bad News.”

Increasing inclusion

While some of these problems are beyond the scope of any one LTC organization, there are ways in which the first two points can be addressed within our communities:

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Racism and LTC

Carer Helping Senior Man With Walking Frame

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