Communication is the most important task in life. People from different cultures may have different expectations and different ways of communicating or behaving. There are cultural differences about food, grooming, touching, sharing personal matters and what is considered polite, private or rude. Try to be aware of these cultural differences and of stereotypes you may have based on someone’s culture, age, gender or disability.
For example, people who are elderly are often dealing with change, loss and limitations. They may be experiencing illness, pain, frustration, reduced mobility and freedom, loss of friends or reduced income. They may be worried about further limitations or death. They may react with irritability, anger, low energy, sadness or depression. Sometimes, it is challenging to sort out the meaning of these symptoms. They can be signs of aging and loss. But other times, they may be signs of more serious medical or emotional difficulties, reactions to medication, depression or drug or alcohol abuse, which indicate they need the help of a counselor or doctor.
Often the consumer and care provider have different native languages. The care provider may be new to this country and learning English. In these circumstances, it is natural that communication may at first be difficult and requires patience. Once you learn to listen to each other and adjust to differences in language, it will get easier.
Working for a disabled employer may be a new and challenging experience. You may feel uncomfortable with the consumer’s condition and needs. Ease things by asking what the consumer wants done and how you should do it. Avoid the tendency to “do it all” for the consumer. Let the consumer tell you what is needed and when. People with disabilities are capable and should be encouraged to make choices for themselves. Once you become familiar with the employer, you will be more comfortable.