Stereotype reflects the perception one has of other individuals based on their different physical abilities, emotional appearance, religious, cultural disposition, sexual orientation or ethnicity without knowing anything personal about that person and these views are often connected to experiences, observations or other influences such as the media. I will first outline below some of the reasons why it is important to avoid making assumptions based on stereotypes when providing care for someone and then later on show how individual care workers can guard against doing this.
Making assumptions, based on stereotypes, when providing care for someone can have a negative effect on the quality of care, as illustrated in the case of Mhàiri who suffered from a stroke and needed a wheelchair but opted instead for personal care at home. The care manager, Stuart, who did the assessment could have found out about her sexual preference had he not assumed because she was married that her relationship with partner Gillian was heterosexual. This would have allowed more sensitivity to be shown by the carers when attending to her personal needs.
The stereotypical assumption that disabled people cannot communicate would have the consequence of them not being listened to properly and this would deny them the right to appropriate services and having a voice. This would impact on their individuality and personal needs, thereby affecting the quality of care being provided. As one participant wheelchair user pointed out in “It’s like when you go to the hospital or the doctors, if you go with anybody because you’re in a wheelchair they don’t address you, they look over you and that really infuriates me”. This underscores the need to speak directly with the service users rather than making assumptions that they are helpless or not capable of discussing their caring needs.
Showing narrow-mindedness because an assumption is made based on stereotype, is being prejudice and this was highlighted in Gypsy Travellers report about prejudice within the health care service. It can prevent Gypsies from gaining access to appropriate medical services such as the barrier presented by a receptionist “the receptionist are harder to get past â€¦ I think they’re doing the doctor a favour â€¦ ‘I did something good today, I kept the Gypsies away’. Another stereotypical assumption illustrated in is that people with mental health problems are ‘prone to violence’ – such was the case of Simon Jackson. However, he was just reaching out for help and often misunderstood, as he was suspicious of any ‘authority figure’. Making stereotypical assumptions can prevent people receiving appropriate care and if a carer has a prejudicial view it could further complicate the matter and deter users from accessing the services. For example, as given in, a disabled lesbian felt that she was seen as somehow ‘unnatural’ or abnormal. However, when these beliefs are carried through, it becomes discrimination. An example of this provided in K101 Block 3 Unit 10 where council estate residents were seen as ‘failures’ and not interested in academic success.
In providing care for someone in a local community, care workers should recognise and value diversity, that is, people are different and should be treated differently but fairly to avoid inequality and discrimination. Therefore, it should not be assumed that providing personal care for an Asian female would be the same or similar to that for a white European female. Care workers need to be culturally sensitive and take into account the differences in people’s lifestyles and family relationships.
As in people with speech impediments are sometimes stereotyped as being deaf and are often shouted at when communicating and this should not be indicative of all people with such a disability. When providing care for someone with this disability, a carer needs to be more informed about that person’s capabilities before engaging to avoid any communication barriers or leaving that person feeling demoralised.
It may sometimes be necessary to use stereotypes and make assumptions as it can act as a guide to help in decision-making, such as when organizing a social event for older people in a care home – as this could be the target audience and provide the opportunity to cater to their specific needs.
Individual care workers can guard against making assumptions based on stereotypes by being more tolerant and make every effort to understand that person better. The care worker should find out what help a disabled person needs instead of assuming what they think they need based on previous experiences or observations. It is important for care workers to avoid being condescending when disabled people are accompanied by their cares but should communicate directly with the disabled persons. If the care worker is not able to understand someone with a hearing impairment, they could ask the person to tell them how they prefer to communicate and not pretend to have understood them when they have not or they could become familiar with that person’s method of communication and find ways of keeping that communication going with aids such as Mankaton or other similar sign language. It is essential to identify that there are different religious, cultural and other particular needs of people, therefore care workers should also see service users as individuals and tailor care according to their individual preferences so that appropriate services can be provided. Care workers need to develop a knowledge and understanding of how the law affecting disability and discrimination as the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 protects disabled people and does not only apply to people who have a physical disability, visual or hearing impairment but can also cover people with learning disabilities. In addition, they should also be familiar with the Race Relations Act 1976, as it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on ground of race, colour, ethnic origin or nationality. An example of this was demonstrated in with an account given by Roz, a white nurse when a patient’s wife made loud racist remarks that ‘she thought it was disgusting that her husband should be in a bay with three black men on their own’ which offended the men. Roz did not collude with this racist view by changing their bays but instead left the men to sort it out amongst themselves, after gaining their views.
In conclusion, an assumption based on stereotypes when providing care for someone should be avoided as it could be construed as being prejudicial or discriminatory and is likely to have a negative Impact on the service user. Individual care workers can guard against doing this by recognising the diverse ‘global village’ we live in and be respectful of other people’s cultural, religious beliefs and ethnicity as well as any government legislation relating to disability and discrimination.
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