woman standing with 2 nursesFeb. 1 marked the official start of Black History Month. The annual observance serves as a month-long opportunity to recognize, celebrate, and honor the achievements and roles of African Americans across our nation’s history.

According to National Public Radio, Black History Month’s theme for 2022 is Black Health and Wellness; a reflection of legacies and achievements of Black scholars, medical clinicians, practitioners, and midwives while also focusing on more recent concerns of mental health.

This year’s theme is intended to observe, “activities, rituals and initiatives in which Black communities have been successful” across our nation. The themes are chosen each year by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, an organization dedicated to researching and promoting achievements of Black Americans and individuals of African descent. With that said, the Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA) salutes and celebrates Black History Month and all the wonderful contributions every individual of color has attributed to our country.

Black History Month is just one example of the many amazing attributes of this country in that we have the freedom to celebrate everyone. We have the freedom to honor all cultures and populations. In April 2022, we will recognize “Celebrate Diversity Month,” which began in 2004 to celebrate diversity in hopes of gaining a better understanding of each other. According to Wikipedia, the term “diversity” is defined as differences between people which can include dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. In other words, a combination of differences which shape our view of the world, our perspective, and our approach.

As the OCOA is a pillar in the Osceola community serving seniors and disadvantaged families, one of the primary undertakings is to connect through diversity while educating our team on the differences between the cultures we serve. According to the United States Census Bureau, more than half of the population of Osceola County (54.3 percent) is of Hispanic or Latino descent. Further, 15 percent are African- American, 3 percent Asian, 0.9 percent Native American; 0.2 percent Pacific Islander and 14.1 percent other non-white races. Osceola County is a diverse populous.

Accordingly, the Council’s Home Care Department is consistently required to recognize and acknowledge that diversity. We support adults whose independence is limited because of age, disability, dementia and/or memory impairment. When a member of our home health services team enters a client’s residence, they are required to be prepared to serve the needs of that client.

According to Johnola Morales, OCOA Senior Vice President of Case Management and in-Home Services, understanding cultural differences helps support the client’s mental health.

“Our clients can better progress when they can communicate with caregivers in their primary language. That communication can also bring a sense of belonging, thus inclusion, within the community,” she said. “When we serve clients in their primary language, their mental health and psychological state becomes calmer, and they feel more understood.”

Integrating diversity education for our home services staff helps to ensure a client’s beliefs, ethnicities and cultures are respected while receiving clinical care. “The OCOA Home Care Department persistently strives to be a diverse division which can serve all nationalities of the community. Similarly, we are looking to bridge partnerships with other locally diverse agencies to ensure our staff is sensitized to the needs of clients,” Morales said.

As we embrace all aspects of diversity, the OCOA looks forward to the challenge, and privilege, of serving all those in need of our services, but especially those individuals whose independence at home is restricted requiring additional support in the comfort of their homes. For more information on the Council’s Home Care Services, contact us at 407-933-9558.

To see more guest columns by Wendy, go to https://osceolagenerations.org/councils-corner/

Published Thursday, February 17, 2022