Four out of ten Canadians struggle with everyday needs due to low levels of literacy (Canadian Council on Learning, 2007). Seniors, as well as those who do not have English or French as their mother tongue, struggle with higher rates of low literacy. Further, cultural insensitivity in health care may worsen issues created by poor fluency in English or French.
General literacy (i.e. the ability to read and write) is one of the most significant barriers to accessing health information and resources. While there are a range of informational resources for caregivers, much of it is inaccessible to the very population that needs it due to writing styles and assumptions of literacy. Therefore many individuals with low levels of literacy may be embarrassed and not ask basic questions about resource and disease management while health care providers may assume that caregivers are informed (Smith & Haggerty, 2003).
The Canadian Council on Learning advocates the following in design and implementation of information supports for caregivers:
- Write at a Grade 5-7 level
- Quality and clarity in graphic design
- Consulting and collaborating with end users
- Locally produced materials
- Use every day words, real-life example, illustrations, and a narrative style consistent with the cultural beliefs of the community
- In face-to-face communication speak slowly, using non-technical jargon, and present only two or three concepts at a time, while regularly checking for understanding by asking the caregiver to ‘teach back’ what they have learned (2007).