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Dealing with Your Parent's Racial and Ethnic Prejudices

It's not uncommon for an aging parent to use a derogatory term to describe someone's race or ethnic background. It's embarrassing to you and disrespectful to the people providing care for your mom or dad. Sometimes the care-receiver isn't deliberately trying to offend anyone, but his or her prejudices stand out more starkly now as society continues to try to move beyond a time of ignorance and hate.

With that in mind, here are some things you can do to help your parent and the person who comes to assist him or her:

--Talk with Dad about the person who is helping him. Emphasize the nurse's, therapist's, or worker's training and experience. If you're bringing in someone to assist with home care, don't just spring that person on your father and hope for the best.

--Remind your parent and the care provider that it may take a lot of patience on both sides. A professional caregiver may speak English as a second language and have a strong accent. It might take your mother a while before she can easily understand what that person is saying.

--Don't let your parent off the hook. Challenge prejudice, especially if your parent slips up when your children are around. Grandparents can have a profound influence on the youngest generation, an influence that can be negative as well as positive. Remember that none of us is ever too old to learn. None of us is ever too old to become a better -- a more loving -- person.