Emotions and Spirituality
One of my work colleagues has recently found out she has a terminal illness. She comes from a different culture than mine – how can I be sensitive to her needs and offer help?

The philosophy of palliative care encourages care for the whole person. Such care tries to meet the person’s spiritual, emotional, cultural, and social needs, as well as physical symptoms. Your colleague’s needs have been shaped by her culture. If you do not know about that culture, you may feel you don't fully understand her needs, and may feel uncomfortable or unsure of yourself in reaching out to her.

The best way to find out what is important to your colleague and her family is to ask her. Let her teach you about what she finds appropriate and helpful. A simple question like “How can I be supportive to you during this time?” can help you learn what she may need from you. If an supportive relationship develops, some of the following questions may help you to understand and respect her unique values and needs:
“What should I know about you and your culture that will help me show respect and provide care?”
"What are some of the traditions that are important to you?"
"What beliefs or customs give you strength and comfort?"

Encourage your colleague to do things in her own way. Follow her lead and respect practices that may be different from your own.

These resources, used for teaching awareness of culture in health care, may offer you some ideas:
Presentation on culturally sensitive care
Module on culturally sensitive care

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