End-of-life cultural competence need grows

Feb 4, 2016

By Maren Dale, News contributor

Social workers are aware of the importance of building cultural awareness in order to work effectively with people from various racial and ethnic groups. However, the need has increased for social workers to dive deeper and develop cultural competence in relation to specific practice areas, including end-of-life care.

Fueling this need is the fact that communities of color in the U.S. are growing quickly, and will continue to increase substantially over the coming decades.

It’s estimated that by 2050, people of color will constitute nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population ages 65 and older — an increase from 20.7 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Helping families and individuals face end-of-life decisions will involve more than overcoming language barriers or understanding cultural traditions.

According to “Dying in America,” a 2014 report published by The Institute of Medicine, people of color prefer more intensive end-of-life treatments as well as desired lower access to hospice care — which contrasts with the preferences of many white Americans.

These preferences are often tied to whether the culture strongly values individualism or if the decisions of the collective community take precedent.

From the February 2016 NASW News. Read the full story here.

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