Caregivers are a diverse group, with diverse needs, desires and abilities. Understanding the diversity of caregivers so that they are not marginalized means being aware of how ethnicity, cultural heritage, faith, income, mental health, and sexual orientation can influence a person’s experience as a caregiver.
Caregivers’ needs and appropriate solutions vary depending on their ethnicity, income, physical and mental health, culture, and gender and where the care receiver is in their illness journey and/or type of illness. Diversity can become marginalization when these differences are not recognized, or worse, discriminated again. Many caregivers are marginalized for more than one reason. Service providers can marginalize caregivers due to:
- Lack of knowledge or bias of diverse ethno-cultural peoples, including: recent immigrants, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, and Canadian Africans.
- Ignoring or placing value judgements on caregivers who live on low incomes.
- Sexual orientation. GBLT caregivers may face unique (and unaddressed) issues from other caregivers, due to their sexual orientation.
- Ignoring or placing value judgements on caregivers’ mental health.
Caregivers can be socially and economically marginalized due to their provision of care, including blame or stigma associated with some illnesses. Inclusion and diversity go hand in hand; acknowledging and valuing a range of cultures, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, disabilities, capacities, interests, values, beliefs and opinions. To provide inclusive, ethical, and competent services to caregivers, basic knowledge of your caregiving population is essential. Cultural competence is the possession of knowledge and skills that enable providers to deliver culturally appropriate care and services. Otherwise, social exclusion results in economic, social, political and cultural disadvantage, adding to caregiver burden.
“If you’re the only woman in the room, service providers automatically assume that you’re the caregiver – there needs to be an awareness of how gender expectations in society play out in everyday perceptions”. (Caregiver)
“We need free services that connect us to the broader community that also has similar experiences, age and interests – that would help us out. It’s not just about needing direct caregiver support. Give us information and programs through immigration services about healthy living so that we can be good caregivers and reduce the burden on the health care system”. (Recent immigrant caregiver)
“For gay people in a hospital setting there is the issue of legitimacy. Same sex caregivers seem to be in a position of having to constantly prove their care relationships over and over again. If you have a care recipient who has dementia or a severe illness, they’re not in a position to identify their own next of kin and you might have family members who climb in and claim that for themselves when they haven’t been providing care”. (Social worker)
“I come from a culturally diverse area – Aboriginals from Innu, Inuit, and Métis make up a portion of my region’s population. Culturally there are many barriers still in this day and age that continue to plague people of my community to meet on common ground”. (Service provider)
Tensions for service providers:You may not have the support you need to provide culturally competent services. You may not have the knowledge or experience necessary to provide culturally competent care, and your workplace may not provide resources to educate yourself. You may feel uncomfortable or judgemental of cultural differences. Those who have been marginalized by mainstream services may not trust or seek out services in times of need. Existing assessments and services may not be culturally relevant.