Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hospice Care and People of Color

An African American, I am aware of many healthcare disparities experienced by people of color. Recognized and documented by the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and numerous others, these disparities, which are based on racial and ethnic factors, result in disproportionate numbers of people needing hospice care in these groups.

Hospice is underutilized nationally, particularly among people of color. Due to personal and collective historical experiences, many people of color are suspicious of healthcare services that are new to them, especially those related to death. They often come from a culture that stresses the importance of family members only being taken care of at home by other family members. They may not be comfortable with the idea of “outsiders” coming in with an end-of-life plan for dying. The idea of hospice services in a nursing home could create even more reluctance. Some people of color might think that pain associated with death is normal.

In order to bridge the gaps in trust and understanding that discourage some people of color from accepting hospice care, hospice staff members must take a more proactive outreach role in presenting the benefits they provide. This requires more than a presentation. It requires a sincere commitment to hire more people of color at all staff levels, more welcome input from people of color on what their needs really are, and more hospice recruitment in their communities at churches, schools, recreation centers, events, etc., along with use of the media, particularly in their languages. Quality end-of-life care is an entitlement for all. That is the hospice philosophy.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

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