Patient-centered care or cultural competence: negotiating palliative care at home for Chinese Canadian immigrants

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2015 Jun;32(4):372-9. doi: 10.1177/1049909114527338. Epub 2014 Apr 4.


The literature about Chinese attitudes toward death and dying contains frequent references to strong taboos against open discussion about death; consequently, there is an assumption that dying at home is not the preferred option. This focused ethnographic study examined the palliative home care experiences of 4 Chinese immigrants with terminal cancer, their family caregivers, and home care nurses and key informant interviews with 11 health care providers. Three main themes emerged: (1) the many facets of taboo; (2) discursive tensions between patient-centered care and cultural competence; and (3) rethinking language barriers. Thus, training on cultural competence needs to move away from models that portray cultural beliefs as shared, fixed patterns, and take into account the complicated reality of everyday care provision at end of life in the home.

Keywords: Chinese immigrants; cultural competence; home care; hybridity; negotiation; palliative care; patient-centered care; postcolonial theory.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Caregivers
  • China / ethnology
  • Cultural Competency*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Home Care Services / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms
  • Palliative Care / organization & administration*
  • Patient Comfort
  • Patient-Centered Care / organization & administration*