Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Number of Latino Seniors in Nursing Homes Rising

As a result of the unstable economy, many adults have been forced to work longer hours or multiple jobs, resulting in less time to care for their elderly parents at home. This is no exception for America’s growing Latino population, who often hold caring for elderly family members in high regard as a cultural tradition.

Felipe Gonzales from Queens, NY, said in a recent NBCLatino article: “Putting my mother in a nursing home was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make.  Being raised in Colombia where family is our number one priority when it comes to taking care of older loved ones, at times I feel like a failure.”

Traditionally in Latino culture, family is the number one priority, and taking care of an elderly parent at home is often the preferred way of fulfilling that sense of duty and devotion. The commonly held stereotype of nursing homes as “places to die” is also present in the Latino community. Fanny Rodriguez, an administrator for the Country Villa Wilshire Nursing Home explains: “In the past nursing homes have always had a bad stigma a ‘taboo’ in the Latino culture, it’s something we didn’t dare talk about.” 

As America’s demographics continue to change, perceptions are changing too, and Latino seniors are now entering nursing homes at record rates for both long term and post-acute care and rehabilitation. Many nursing facilities have changed by adopting new was to accommodate the rising number of new Latino residents, including hiring more Spanish-speaking staff to offering more ethnic food options.

According to a Brown University study conducted last year, the number of Hispanics in senior living facilities rose by 54.9 percent between 1999 and 2008.  This number will continue to grow with America’s aging baby boomer population. Assisted living communities can expect to see changes too, especially in states that have started to “rebalance” elder care via funding reimbursement shifts. In regards to assisted living facilities, the researchers concluded: “We know certain alternatives are not equally available, accessible, or affordable to everybody, certainly not to many minority elders.  As policymakers look to “rebalance” elder care from nursing homes to other forms of care, for instance with shifts in Medicaid funding to support home and community-based services, they should account for these disparities.”

Those seeking help with finding the right type of care or with having a conversation about their loved one’s care needs can visit CareConversations.org for support and resources.

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