Thoughts and ideas from Dude With Sjogrens
Going Through a Culture Change: How medical issues change things
January 24, 2020 at 10:00 PM
by Randy Klein
Going Through a Culture Change: How medical issues change things

I’ve spent a lot of time talking with people who have had to go through a culture change. This is not necessarily a change in their identity, but a series of changes that have changed the way that they have been able to participate in the culture they know.

In this article, the focus will be on how a change in health does just that.

The article is not meant to be inclusive of all aspects of change to culture, but will serve as a starting point for discussion and new thought.

In many ways, people living with health conditions can feel very much like people who have been left behind from the culture that they knew, or a feeling of being very very far away from it. The change was not always by choice, and sometimes people were thrust into unfair situations and were forced to adapt.

Developing a major health condition changes things. It can be like having to learn a new language, a new set of rules, and often finding new people to interact with. It is change.

Medical jargon, or the language used by doctors and health professionals can be a hard language to master. We do not have the benefits of being raised and schooled in it, and we may not understand the underlying rules and structure. There may be a slang that goes along with it that we also don’t understand. It’s a different culture.

Some will adapt and flourish, while others will seek out translators, but most will not have fluency in it. There is a fundamental change in our language, and how a patient will relate to others. It’s true for the care givers and family that will provide support.

There is a change to what can be done by the patient. Sometimes it affects many functions, such as social aspects, relationships, diet, religious activities, ability to understand and to be understood. Relationships may not seem to be the same.

What is learned over time is a survival and adapting to the surroundings. Without that, it’s the next generation that will flourish and there is a group of pioneers often left to seek out other pioneers. It can be like living in a different place without leaving home.

Food is one of the most social of activities. A forced change in diet is a very personal journey. There is a lot of planning involved, and the other people, who are the community to the affected person, do not have to eat the same way, and may feel resentful that extra efforts are involved. The special food may not be available to them, and it may be a struggle to prepare it properly and extra costs. There is an adapting, and often a new culture is created or joined that is made up of people with similar issues. It can feel isolating, but there is new ground that will need to be covered.

A change in physical ability is challenging for a person who is affected. For the athletic person, this can feel like everything has changed, or has been lost. It is a change in culture, and this leads to finding ways to adapt to the changes.

Socialization becomes challenging from the way that it was previously done, such as dances, going out, and being around crowds or family may have changed. Survival often depends on adapting the culture, and sometimes creating a new culture.

This doesn’t mean that family, or religious traditions are cast aside. In some circumstances, it can be a different expression of it.

Like music, in the absence of known instruments, new instruments will arise. It’s the same with food, and often the same with how people socialize and interact with each other.

In times of scarcity, people will find different foods to eat, and it is very much the same in adapting to a health change. For the person who is the pioneer, it can be challenging but survival depends on it.

A change in health can be very challenging and each person will face different challenges. Some people will not be able to handle it on their own. This too is a change. For others, the ability to adapt may not be possible due to limitations on what they can or can’t do.

There can be a culture change that occurs from health issues. It’s very much about adapting where possible to a new culture.

This article was written with friends and family in mind. The goal was to introduce the journey in a way that helps people to understand that things have changed but there are new opportunities ahead: very much like a pioneer finding a way to survive in a new land making new friends and allies.

Feel free to share this article with friends and family, or in groups. I am not a medical specialist, and all information is provided in an “As is” basis.

Be well.