The role of ethnic identity in care of elderly Finnish immigrants

University dissertation from Stockholm : Karolinska Institutet, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Occupational Therapy and Elderly Care Research (NEUROTEC)

Abstract: The role of ethnicity in care of elderly Finnish immigrants Most Western countries are becoming increasingly multicultural because of immigration. Many of these immigrants grow old in a second homeland and will need health and elderly care in the future. In Sweden, the largest immigrant group comes from its neighbouring country, Finland. Little is known about how this group experiences present health care or their expectations of future elderly care. The overall aim of the thesis was to describe and to deepen the understanding of elderly Finnish immigrants experiences of health care and elderly care and the role that ethnicity played in these experiences. The specific aims were to: elucidate the elderly Sweden-Finns experiences and beliefs about health care in Sweden, in order to gain an understanding of how ethnic background affects the elderly immigrated persons experiences and beliefs in the host country (I); illuminate the role that culturally appropriate care plays in relation to the elderly Finnish immigrants wishes and expectations of institutional elderly care (II); describe and compare the elderly Finnish immigrants perceptions of health care, both among those who have continued to live in Sweden and those who have re-migrated to Finland (III); describe the cultural adjustments that had been made at a specific elderly care setting, the Finnish Home, and illustrate the impact of cultural adjustments on care, as conditions that promoted the well-being of the residents (IV). All the participants were born in Finland and Finnish was their native language and they lived (I-II and IV) or had lived in Sweden. In I-II, the 39 participants were 75 years or older and in III-IV, 65 years or older. In III, 217 persons participated in Finland, and 643 persons participated in Sweden. All residents, staff and visitors of Finnish Home participated in IV. Qualitative interviews were conducted in the participants homes (I-II), a mailed questionnaire was used in Study III, and an ethnographic study design was used in Study IV. Several different analysis methods were used: Hermeneutical ad hoc analysis (I), latent content analysis (II), statistical analysis (III), and an ethnographic method (IV). The results show that the Swedish health care system is congruent with the elderly Finnish immigrants expectations (I), and their experiences of care were good (III). Their experiences of the Finnish health care system were also good (III). However, sharing the same ethnic background as the care providers was believed to lead to better care (I). When thinking about future elderly care, the elderly Finnish immigrants wished to feel familiarity, continuity in life, security, and companionship. This could be achieved either in the well-known physical environment of their current homes, in an elderly care setting in their part of town, or in a well-known socio-cultural environment at an elderly care setting where Finnish was spoken and the care providers and fellow-residents were Finns (II). When being cared for in a culturally adjusted elderly care setting, the care became culturally congruent as the care providers, and the residents played the same language and ethnicity game (IV). The conclusions from the thesis show that ethnicity and ethnic identity, a shared mother language, and the place, play an important role in the care of elderly Finnish immigrants. In addition to this, the elderly Finns experienced a feeling of at-homeness when being cared for by members of their own ethnic group, in a familiar place, with people who spoke the same native language.

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