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Abstract

Throughout history people have relied on their culture for healing practices and ways of caring. Healing began in Africa thousands of years ago with herbs and plants that were used for healing and rituals. As African people came to America they brought with them cultural ways which were practiced throughout slavery. Thereafter, elders passed down the healing remedies until today.

The purpose of this study was to discover beliefs, meanings, and practices of healing with botanicals (plant, root, or bark parts) recalled by African American women 80 years of age or older that were born and resided in the Mississippi Delta. The goal of the study was to provide insight into the cultural beliefs and ways of the people by identifying generic practices of the elders; thereby, providing additional knowledge needed to design and implement culturally congruent care. The knowledge obtained is posited to assist other nurses in the care of African Americans and highlight the importance of generic care awareness.

This study discovered that the elders in the Mississippi Delta depend now on professional care and less on the remembered botanical healing ways of the past. Many botanical healing methods were remembered but few used today. However, women remain the healers in the family units and are considered important in care. African American elders view God as the center of life and healing. Health was defined by the elders and younger informants as the ability to get up and do normal things and is maintained by taking care of oneself. Illness is viewed as the inability to do normal activities. This finding may shed light on the late presentation of symptoms in health care within this culture.

As population demographics shift, people and nurses are more mobile now than ever before. Because of this mobility, cultural care research is important to ensure provision of culturally competent care. This research provides additional resources toward understanding the elder African American culture in the Delta as it relates to provision of culturally congruent care. Ultimately, through culturally competent care, the client will receive care that is respectful, safe and not offensive.

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