Updated: Oct 26
Diversity and Inclusion and Ethnicity can become a topic of conversation with your clients. While we don't want that, it can happen, and in order to protect your agency, your caregiving staff, and sometimes even your clients, when this topic comes up it needs to be addressed head on.
Discrimination is Unacceptable...Period
The bottom line is, if a client is discriminating against you or your staff for reasons of ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, appearance, religion, political affiliations, or just about anything else that can get ugly these days, you and your staff do not have to service these clients. There may be someone else, another agency, that’s more tolerant of that but there's nothing wrong with you just making it clear that we do not work with prejudices, and this is not going to work for us. You have the right to just walk away, and that's okay. More so you have the responsibility to protect your staff and not send them into a situation where they would be, at minimum, uncomfortable. It is 2023 and such prejudices just really aren't acceptable, at least not in the home care realm. In your hiring practices you can't discriminate so it's certainly reasonable that your clients would need to adhere to those same practices.
There are Exceptions to Every Rule
The only time I might cater to someone with prejudices of some sort is if they have dementia. It's okay to just dig in and ask some of those questions. Maybe you have a phrase to use, “Just want you to know we're going to send the caregiver with the best skill, availability, and personality fit for your loved one whether they’re red, yellow, black, or white. Okay?” If they flinch at that, then dig a little deeper. They might just say, “My father was always so kind when we were growing up, but since his dementia, we as a family have noticed he makes comments to, or about staff in the hospital about their color or about something else.” They might be embarrassed about it, but if dementia is involved, then the client's inability to inhibit their own language can be an issue. Then you may want to make an exception. That said, if the client has always been a racist old jerk then you don't have to accept that. Still, weigh that out and make sure that you can staff it and even restaff it with somebody who can understand and tolerate that. Or, if there's only one type of caregiver that this client is not going to insult, and you don't have that caregiver, that's your opportunity to say "Maybe there's somebody else that can help you" and walk away. Again, these are uncomfortable conversations, but you do have to have them with the family if the person has dementia.
Watch for the Red Flags
You're going to ask about caregiver preferences because maybe they've had an experience before. They may say, “Well, I don't want anybody who talks too much, or I don't want somebody who's too quiet. I need social engagement.” Watch for red flags such as any kind of little prejudices that come up about ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliations, or appearance. For example, I’m not a tiny girl and I've heard, more than once, somebody make a comment about my weight as if that has anything to do with my capabilities. It doesn't. And again it is 2023 and caregiving starts with the heart. So you are going to hire the person with the best skills, availability and personality fit for the client. But, if they want something else and you don't have it, it's okay to say no. The last thing you want is to put a caregiver in a situation where they're vulnerable, where they're being attacked verbally, insulted, assaulted, or made to feel unsafe in any way. You don't want to do that to your staff, and your agency doesn't need the backlash or legal hassle.
There are also other ways to be inappropriate, right? Client with dementia might be sexually inappropriate and you'd have to prepare your caregivers for that too. Behaviors that come along with dementia are acceptable to an extent, but behaviors that put your caregivers at risk in any way are not acceptable. Those behaviors need to be addressed on a deeper level. So don't ignore red flags!
In my experience, when you do ignore a red flag or the family says, “Well, there was that one time, but it only happened once. It's an isolated incident” and you don't ask any further questions, in a few months you're going to realize that every time you send an ethnic caregiver to that client, an "incident" happens, or the client complains about something stupid, you'll see the pattern. It's going to come back to bite you later. Go ahead and dig in and ask about those red flags. Use your gut and make sure that you're being fair to everybody.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace is something that everyone is talking about now. We're here to take care of everyone. If you would like a Diversity and Inclusion Policy and Code of Conduct for your home care agency, Click Below and get it for free Now!
I hope that this is helpful for you and also hope that this enables you to have that tough conversation if you have to. But I also hope you never have to!
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