Life in Long Term Care

Providing culturally appropriate care at Yee Hong

Helping residents of all backgrounds feel at home

Location: Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care

What defines culturally appropriate care? How is it being provided in long-term care? These are important questions to ask in a province rich with diverse cultures, values and beliefs. They are also questions that don’t necessarily lend themselves to easy or definitive answers but rather conversations that evolve alongside Ontario’s long-term care home demographics

“Ontario is multicultural, so I think there’s a need to take a fresh look at what culturally appropriate care actually means and how we, as long-term care professionals, live that in our homes,” says Dr. San Ng, Chief Executive Officer with the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care.

It’s a passionate topic for Dr. Ng and the Yee Hong Centre team. Opened in 1994, Yee Hong has renowned history of providing a safe, welcoming, enriching environment and high-quality services to allow 15,000 Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and South Asian older adults across the Greater Toronto Area to live in settings of their choice, including long-term care, independent living, and in their own homes. This reputation is founded on an organizational culture in which each resident’s unique identity – their values, beliefs, traditions and preferences – is truly honoured.  

“One Asian person isn’t the same as another,” Dr. Ng explains. “Yes, there may be some commonalities in terms of outlook, but the culturally appropriate care discussion needs to start with an understanding that everyone is unique and that culturally sensitive, person-centred care goes much deeper than speaking their native language or serving traditional foods.”

It’s a valuable understanding, both for homes where residents with shared identities live, and homes in which residents have a wider spectrum of cultures and ethnicities. Dr. Ng notes, “We treat our residents and clients as though they are our own family members; in fact, Yee Hong’s new logo is patterned after the word “family” in Chinese. Culturally appropriate care isn’t a strategy that can be leaned or applied in broad strokes. It takes a personal and nuanced touch.” 

As one example, “Each person or culture may have unspoken rules about politeness in how they are addressed or how they wish to communicate,” says Chau Nhieu-Vi, Executive Director of Yee Hong’s Mississauga Long-Term Care Home. “It’s best to communicate with people in a way that they prefer.” 

“Individuals and their family members also have different end-of-life values and rituals for individuals, which we respect,” adds Nazira Jaffer, Executive Director of Yee Hong’s Hospice. 

Certainly, there is no cookie-cutter approach; no one thing that can be pointed out as “culturally appropriate care” and applied the same way to other homes.  

An evolving conversation

Even after all its years in operation, Dr. Ng and the Yee Hong team say they’re still learning what it means to foster an experience where residents from all backgrounds feel at home.  

“It’s been 28 years, and we’re still evolving [in terms of] what it means or how it works,” Dr. Ng explains. “We know from the feedback we get from families that we’re providing excellent care, but we are always learning and growing together.” 

The concept of culturally appropriate care may seem hard to define. Yet, that may be the point. What matters most, says Dr. Ng, is that long-term care professionals recognize the value of this approach and begin – or continue – the conversation.  

Explore culturally appropriate care Dr. San Ng and Adil Khalfan on the ‘Coming of Age’ podcast

Listen now

Read the original story in the Long Term Care Today Magazine with more tips for long-term care homes to lay the foundation for culturally appropriate care in their homes.  

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