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Unruly grandmothers, ghosts and ancestors: Chinese elders and the importance of culture in dementia evaluations.

Authors
  • Elliott, Kathryn S
  • Di Minno, Mariann
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of cross-cultural gerontology
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2006
Volume
21
Issue
3-4
Pages
157–177
Identifiers
PMID: 17225192
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

This article explores the cultural clashes that occurred when Chinese patients at an Alzheimer's center in California were evaluated for dementia. Lack of familiarity with Chinese culture made the culturally mainstream American clinicians at this center more likely to misinterpret the behavior of elderly Chinese-speaking patients and their families and, thereby, more likely to misdiagnose such patients and suggest culturally inappropriate recommendations. This tendency was reduced when relevant cultural knowledge was incorporated into the clinical evaluation. The evaluation process at this clinic and two patient examples are discussed to illustrate that familiarity with a patient's cultural background is essential for accurate diagnosis and referral. This ethnographic case study places the evaluation process in one particular clinic in cultural context and is suggestive in the way that exploratory qualitative research is meant to be, rather than broadly representative of dementia clinics or clinicians as a whole. However, problems created by cultural clashes at this clinic do suggest that what may be happening at other dementia clinics as they encounter increasingly more patients from diverse cultural backgrounds is an important empirical question worthy of further research, using both qualitative and quantitative methods.

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