How to Deal With a Prejudiced Loved One in a Diverse Assisted Living Community

At this juncture in the 21st century, we are seeing a large group of people over the age of 65 heading towards a move into assisted living. This certainly is a diverse group of people. With that said, despite the diversity of this group of seniors, there are women and men within this cohort that have not had as many opportunities to experience cultural diversity, according to Davis Zavik, author of Assisted Living: Everything You Need to Know to Compassionately Care for Your Older Parent.

The reality is that some older Americans harbor prejudices that might be exhibited when they come to live in a more diverse community than they previously experienced. As the adult child of a senior parent, you may find yourself what you can do to deal with or help a parent or other older loved one who appears to harbor prejudices in an assisted living community.

You Can Set the Tone

If you are aware that your parent harbors certain prejudices, one way to ease your mother or father into a diverse assisted living community is to set the tone regarding the diversity issue. When it comes to an assisted living community, your parent will likely face a diverse group of fellow residents. In addition, caregivers and other staff in an assisted living community are also apt to be diverse.

If you have a parent, you know to harbor prejudices of some type; you can set the tone by being kind and courteous to fellow residents and staff that might have different ethnic, religious, or other backgrounds from your mother or father. As you develop a friendly relationship with others in your parent’s assisted living community, your mother or father will likely be more inclined to treat others appropriately.

Lack of Exposure and Fear of the Unknown

One primary reason why some people over the age of 65 harbor prejudices against one group of people or another very well may be that they have not had regular contact with a particular cohort of individuals. For example, you may have a parent who has not had to interact with an “openly gay” member of the LGBTQ community.

Consequently, if your parent moves into an assisted living facility with a resident or residents that are part of the LGBTQ community or a caregiver, you need to recognize that this is a proverbial new experience for your mother or father. The fact that it is a new experience doesn’t excuse improper conduct on the part of your parent, of course. However, recognizing that your parent has had no experience interacting with a member of the LGBTQ presents everyone involved with an opportunity to learn and grow.

Prejudices derived from confusion or even fear of the unknown can often be overcome. As your parent becomes more familiar with a person with a different background, the odds are decent that your parent will shed previously held misconceptions and may even develop a friendship.

Dementia and Prejudice

If a senior is diagnosed with dementia, prejudice can be a different problem for the older person, his or her family, fellow assisted living residents, and facility staff. Unfortunately, a senior with worsening dementia may begin to say wholly inappropriate things regarding people of a different race from his or her own.

Ultimately, this type of conduct is apt to be deemed detrimental to the operation of an assisted living community. The time may come when your parent may need to move into a different type of long-term care environment, like a memory center.

Counseling for a Parent Dealing With Prejudice

There may be situations where your parent might benefit from counseling to address prejudice. With that said, your parent needs to be willing to go through this process. You cannot force your senior parent to participate in counseling against his or her wishes.

In conclusion, if you find your parent struggling with prejudice of one type or another in an assisted living community, remember that you are not the first adult child to have a senior mother or father harboring prejudice. That certainly does not justify harboring unfair or inappropriate thoughts about people who differ from your mother or father. It does not justify any inappropriate statements that your parent might make. Having said this, there can be opportunities and courses of action that can be taken to get your parent beyond prejudices that he or she may harbor.