Diversity and Inclusion: Race

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Racism is woven into the structures of society and leads to pervasive conscious and unconscious bias in our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. It influences staff and resident interactions in every community.

Sometimes racist/ethnic biases are blatant – a resident says I don’t want that “black, white, African, Hispanic, Asian” person taking care of me (my mother). Other times it is much more subtle or unconscious such as a resident/family member reporting to a supervisor that ____ is just not “connecting” with my mother or is rude to her.

Staff also experience race or ethnicity-based harassment from residents, families or each other.

Residents often struggle with their conscious or unconscious fears. Interpreting behavior is even more complicated with residents living with dementia.

Staff and residents’ current and past experiences with race and ethnic bias have long-lasting impact on the people working and living in your community. Organizations embracing inclusivity need to address this head on. Communities need to establish a culture that openly acknowledges and discusses these biases and experiences and then works together to address it. These solutions should support everyone to feel safe and included in the community where they work and live. This person-centered approach to addressing these issues helps our communities acknowledge the strengths we have in diversity.

How can you and your organization take a more inclusive perspective on race and ethnicity?

Some starting points might be:

  • Ask staff to reflect on their experiences of race or ethnicity-based discrimination while working with older adults.
  • Listen to their experiences and brainstorm ways together that workers could be supported by teams in their interactions with residents and families.
  • Consider ways inclusive practices could be discussed and reinforced with residents.
  • Create groups that include both staff and residents to discuss the history of those in your community and devise ways to celebrate the diversity.

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