I already knew the one constant thing in life is change, which means we must learn how to adapt over and over. For caregivers, change is difficult without a network of support. For life to be a little less scary and lonely, we must become socially and culturally competent together. I thought cultural diversity meant identifying all groups as significant for many years, but not acknowledging true differences until the desire to bond with like minds became a priority. Surely, there are others wanting services or need connections like me.
I spoke about self-awareness in the podcast episode Caregiver Awareness, but another part of self-awareness is recognizing how our culture influences what others think and act upon. The Coronavirus pandemic created a culture clash that brought light to the disconnection and struggles caregivers have been facing. Nurses in all areas and assisted living staff experienced levels of exhaustion far greater than they ever imagined. Domestic caregivers became even more isolated than they already were before the pandemic. The awareness for connection and outlets is finally being noticed.
Lucinda Koza is the founder and CEO of I-Ally, a community-driven app that saves Millennial family caregivers time, reduces stress, and enables informed decision-making by providing services that fulfill their unique needs. She jumped to action when she suddenly found herself becoming her father's sole caregiver in 2018. Lacking support from every direction, Lucinda fell through the cracks of our cultural system.
Lucinda's life mission launched to advocate for the invisible family caregiver labor force. By tapping into her background as an actor she applied storytelling and digital strategy talent in hopes of making a difference. Using a technological solution for millennial family caregivers, she crafted a way to create community and utilize shared resources. Since founding I-Ally, Mrs. Koza has been named a Hero of the COVID Crisis by Authority Magazine and Thrive Global. She was acknowledged as a Visionary Voice by the All Raise Organization. Mrs. Koza remains a devoted family caregiver to her father and a TIME'S UP Care Economic Business Council member.
The needs of unsuspecting caregivers, like Lucinda Koza, brought light to the gaps in our existing culture. The medical industry has very specific tasks to fill when it comes to preserving life. Social work is an attempt to fill in the gap when it is time to transition a patient home, but the box in education and additional resources is still not checked. We might get lucky if we have insurance that covers more services, or the ball gets dropped in our lap with a frightening "good luck."
Cultural differences will challenge our communication, etiquette, and problem-solving patterns as we bring different expectations to the table. We may be faced with stereotypes or underlying feelings about working with someone different. Our skills need to adapt as a caregiver to avoid misinterpretation or misjudgments. How can we find ways to meet our loved one's needs when experiencing geographical barriers, sensitivity to diagnosis, sexual orientation, or even political views? A small part of awareness of cultural diversity has prompted training for nurses to include manikins of different colors.
Lucinda found herself in a new caregiver role with more questions than answers, more needs than resources provided, and more fear than hope. Rather than placing more pressure on Insurance companies and the medical industry, which still needs to be considered, we can take advantage of existing services. Society knows caregivers are struggling, but connecting them to practical resources is where you find the gaps.
Many caregivers need information regarding Hands-On skills more than advice or stories. While other caregivers need comfort and reassurance knowing they are doing a great job from other caregivers. The connection to defined resources is vital for the health and well-being of caregivers of all ages and walks of life. Sharing your story not only helps you unburden, but it may also indirectly help another caregiver avoid the same pitfalls or frustrations. Knowledge is power, but especially when it is tailored to specific needs like the I-Ally app. You can find helpful resources by going to I-Ally.com or make your resource known to those in need.
Even when most caregivers have access to the internet to search, it can be frustrating knowing what to search. We don't know what we don't know until we require a specific resource. If you know what to ask, then filling in who to ask outside of the hospital, doctor's office, or staff in assisted living can present another challenge. Those outlets have limited knowledge and even experience. Caregivers are pointed in a new direction, further down on their lonely, scary path. I have spent many frustrating hours reading articles without much weight to fulfilling my needs. I have clicked on many links that take me down a rabbit hole of resources at more empty articles or repetitive information.
I have begun to hear more caregivers saying, "There should be an app that does this…." They describe a laundry list of needs for one that happens to be very common across the board. These common problems hit so many of us in our most vulnerable and needy moments when all we want to do is help our loved ones. We need an easy button. When given a chance to be heard, I wanted to yell at some unhelpful doctors saying, "Just tell me what to do without passing judgment." Even if they know what we could do, they opt for the safe choice because their needs include mitigating legal risks.
The other flip side to these cultural gaps in the medical industry is trapped in a model that follows the money. Insurance companies dictate what they can or cannot charge, do, or provide. Doctors and nurses desire to help more but are stuck on protocols that usually relate to avoiding lawsuits or losing funding. The case is not that they lack compassion when our cultural gaps tie their hands. Education, communication, and compassion seem to be our bridges to the gaps but even though the technology is a start to filling the gap there is still a learning curve.
Stop and think about how you might be able to make a difference in bridging our cultural gaps. Everything matters. Every effort is warranted. Every outcome brings us closer to a good change in humanity.
We can remove some of the caregiver stress when we learn how to be mindful and respectful to reduce gaps between these areas:
Racial or Ethnic Identity – don't make assumptions about a person because of their name, skin tone, hair texture, etc.
Language or communication ability & style – Can they still hear or see well? Do they understand English or need a translator? Are they more or less expressive with words or facial expressions? Do they need help in making their request clear?
Religious Beliefs or Spiritual Practices – Ask, don't assume. Some might be spiritual and not religious. Have you offered a connection to their local church, temple, or synagogue? If you have never heard of their religion, then ask politely. Are they avoiding care because of their beliefs?
Wellness Behaviors or Healing Preferences – Our loved ones and care recipients may want to bring in their traditional practices from home. Someone may have a Shaman or Nutritionalist. Some may need guidance and are therefore open to best-practice ideas. Can we find a way to include their preferences without creating harm or offense?
Typical Nutrition – Be mindful of diets (gluten-free, vegan), allergies, religious dietary laws, cultural specifics to meals or snacks.
Geographical barriers - Are services or specialists available in their area? Do they have adequate transportation? Are their loved ones living with them or in another state? Can we schedule regular well-checks?
Cultural Healing Beliefs – Prayer may be a necessity for some instead of relying on science or medicine, even when their life depends on intervention.
Lifestyle & Habits – Don't assume they can do more just because they can do some things from muscle memory, such as signing their name. Some people may be night owls and do not want an early rise no matter what. LGBTQ are all human, and all have needs and deserve the same care.
Thank you for joining in and listening with us today. You can find more about this topic on the blog at www.jessicalizelcannon.com. I hope this gave you more food for thought and until next time, BE PROACTIVE. Take care, everybody.
Intro: Vacation Time by Khris Paradise
Outro: Misty by Khris Paradise