values, beliefs, and traditions significantly affect family
life. They dictate family members' roles and responsibilities
toward one another, how family members relate to one another,
how decisions are made within families, how resources are
distributed, and how problems are defined. Culture further
influences how families cope with stress and determines
if and when families will seek help from outsiders. Understanding
these factors can significantly increase professionals'
effectiveness. Colleagues, co-workers, and clients themselves,
and members of the community members are workers' most valuable
resource in understanding the role of culture. Although
it is not possible to achieve an understanding of all the
diverse cultures workers are likely to encounter, learning
what questions to ask is an important first step:
role do seniors play in the family? In the community?
within the family, is expected to provide care to frail
members? What happens when they fail to do so?
makes decisions about how family resources are expended?
About other aspects of family life?
within the family, do members turn to in times of conflict
conduct is considered abusive? Is it considered abusive
to use an elder's resources for the benefit of other family
members? To ignore a family member?
immigrant seniors), when did they come to the U.S. and
under what circumstances? Did they come alone or with
family members? Did other family members sponsor them
and, if so, what resources did those family members agree
to provide? What is their legal status?
religious beliefs, past experiences, attitudes about social
service agencies or law enforcement, or social stigmas
may affect community members' decisions to accept or refuse
help from outsiders?
what circumstances will families seek help from outsiders?
To whom will they turn for help (e.g. members of the extended
family, respected members of the community, religious
are the trusted sources of information in the community?
What television and radio stations, shows, and personalities
are considered reliable? What newspapers and magazines
do people read?
do persons with limited English speaking or reading skills
get their information about resources?
answers to these questions can provide guidance to professionals
in working with members of diverse ethnic and cultural communities.
They will help workers understand expectations and dynamics
within families and determine what services will be most
appropriate and acceptable. They will help workers identify
trusted persons who can be called upon for help. Finally,
they can provide insight into promising approaches and vehicles
for spreading the word about available services.
for learning more about the role of culture in elder abuse
J.I., & Garcia, J.L. (Eds.).(1995). Elder abuse: International
and cross-cultural perspectives. Binghamton, NY: Haworth
L. (1995). To reach beyond our grasp: A community outreach
guide or professionals in the field of elder abuse. Goldman
Institute on Aging. For information on how to order this
T. (1999). Understanding elder abuse in minority populations.
Philadelphia: Taylor & Francis.
and Combating Elder Abuse in Minority Communities. (1997).
Proceedings of a 1997 conference sponsored by the National
Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and funded by the Archstone
Foundation. Single copies are available at no cost from
the Archstone Foundation. To request a copy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated March 2003