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Latino Eldercare or What to do about Mama?

By HERWriter
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When Mama reached her eighties, we assumed that she would move in with us but cardiac problems meant specialized support. In the Latino culture, it is expected that families bring their aging parents home when that time comes. So, was it okay to consider assisted living?

One of the fastest growing groups in the nation, elderly Latinos are estimated to number nearly 15 million in the next ten years. Some will have no choice but to live with family due to cultural and socio-economic barriers, particularly as more elders find themselves financially strained. Approximately one out of every 12 elderly Hispanics has no health insurance.

Elders with certain conditions, such as Alzheimer's or osteoperosis or cancer, can strain the household physically, emotionally and economically. About 21.4% of elderly Latinos have been diagnosed with diabetes which, if not managed, becomes a deadly condition.

Fortunately, Mama cherishes her independence and is happy in assisted living, as long as the family stays involved in her life. It's a win-win for our unique situation. Mama has constant supervision, regular programs designed by elder-care specialists, and plenty of contact with her loved ones.

When it's time for you to evaluate options, treat your elder parent with dignity and place their health and happiness above what others might think. Start the discussion before it's time; preparation and open dialogue can make the decision less traumatic and the transition more successful for all.

And if you're still unsure, vote with your heart.

Add a Comment7 Comments

Asians have an expectation of caring for their elderly parents, as a general rule. My mother just recently moved into our home, even though we're not entirely set up for an aging person.

Do you know what the Chinese character for "trouble" is? Two women under one roof. So, my poor darling groom is bracing himself for the sort of conflict that anyone with an Asian mom could understand.

But, we've never discussed assisted living. I compare her to our neighbor her age who recently died from health complications brought on by diabetes and I suppose I've taken for granted that mom is in remarkably good health; she never really discusses her health or any potential issues. Mom is going to do our local Capitol 10K on Sunday, just two days before her 80th birthday.

I can understand how mom likes her independence. After all, she's still driving, works part-time and does the occasional 10K. But, I worry that her sense of independence might stand in the way of making good decisions about her care, if the time should ever arise that she would need assisted living.

March 23, 2009 - 4:44pm
EmpowHER Guest

It's a difficult issue to think about. In the Latino culture, the elderly are usually part of the family. Having them isolated in a nursing home seems unthinkable. Yet, these health facilities could provide much needed care. I'm not sure about this one.

March 22, 2009 - 8:32pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

I think the word "isolated" is an important distinction. After visiting several elder care facilities, Mama picked one with the most services. She practices Tai Chi, swims, plays piano and guitar, organizes other seniors into sing-alongs, and line dances! She's 88 years old. She loves the activites and social setting. She is anything but isolated and(when she's available)has family visiting several times a week. On-site medical makes her comfortable about her heart condition. Since I am in and out of cancer treatment, it's a blessing that she's so happy and safe. Every family is unique and must weigh the pros and cons, of which there are many.

March 22, 2009 - 9:18pm
HERWriter Guide

Thank for this information, Annette.

You are very correct - elder care is as much cultural as it is medical. From Latin to Asian to African or European cultures, the care - and attitudes toward aging - vary in great degrees.

I'm surprised that you say only one in twelve Hispanic elderly are without health insurance, given that the national average is so much higher - when you say insurance, are you meaning private insurance, or health insurance covered by Medicare?

March 22, 2009 - 2:20pm
HERWriter (reply to Susan Cody)

Thanks for the feedback. It's hard to get exact statistics - even the federal agencies don't agree on the data. Further confounding the issue is non-citizen data which is probably underestimated. My comment was meant to refer to any kind of medical coverage including Medicare, since it's the first line of coverage for all elders. The datapoint was gleened from research reported in 2005, so it is very conservative. With the current economic situation, it will only get worse. It would probably have been more relevant to report under-insured as well, because that is where many will fall through the crack. Thank you for probing this issue and bringing more understanding to the seriousness of the problem.

March 22, 2009 - 5:11pm
EmpowHER Guest

I concur with your articles sentiments, in California one in three Hispanics are un-insured (from 2007 Census figures). I believe those numbers are actually one in two because of our terrible economic times. You will find that in places like Texas and Florida the same statistics, the consequences are going to hit America hard over the next 10 years. Another harsh reality is that most Hispanics are undiagnosed for "Diabetes & HBP"- last week a study was published that showed a growing incidence of breast cancer within the Hispanic female population due to undiagnosed. Hispanics need to start eating correctly and taking Healthcare serious, I am Hispanic and I realized at 45 that I needed to take control of my own health. I scheduled a physical and found out that I was healthy (thank god), but needed to loose approx. 20lbs- as of today I have lost the weight and feel great, we all need to take control of our lives.


Rudy Rivas, President & CEO

March 22, 2009 - 9:06am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

Thanks for the feedback, Rudy. Your concern that the statistics are much worse than reported is correct. People without health insurance are probably not being diagnosed until their condition is very advanced. It is of particular concern with breast cancer in the Latina community. Bravo to you for helping bridge the gap.


March 22, 2009 - 9:32am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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