How Elder Care is Recognizing Ethnic Backgrounds

  • An article in The San Antonio Express-News, titled "Adult day care booming in South Texas: Culture, demographics driving industry," brings to light a whole new attitude toward our aging and elders. This article speaks to the Latino culture and talks about the fierce competition among adult day care centers that cater to them.


    I have my computer set to send me alerts on many elder care subjects. Lately, I've been getting articles directed toward the aging population of Japan, China, India and even Ireland. Obviously, it's not just the United States and Canada that are mulling over their aging populations and how best to care for our elders.

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    I don't know that we are all so different. The San Antonio Express-News article mentions the close ties that Latinos have with their elders; it speaks of the guilt the families feel about putting their elders "in a home." Is that really so different that the "white bread" culture of the high plains or the Native Americans who have long struggled with this issue?


    A couple of years ago, I answered, in my column, a question from a Hispanic woman who lives up in our northern tier. She was having a difficult time with her family, some of whom live in Mexico. The grandfather lives with her family, in Minnesota. She works full-time, as does her husband. They have a very "American" lifestyle, meaning no one is home all day to care for the elderly man. It seems the grandfather has dementia, and they were terrified about leaving him home, but the family in Mexico couldn't understand the problem and were angry over the care family's consideration of getting outside help.


    I did suggest a family meeting, by phone if necessary, and some intervention with a bi-lingual counselor. I asked for help for them from a local group that specializes in multi-cultural issues. However, I made it clear that nearly all families have issues with guilt. Nearly all families have disagreements between those who are giving hands-on care and those who live afar. Yes, there are cultural differences, but we all have to struggle with the fact that we'd rather keep our elders at home, but often, because of the demands of modern life or the deteriorating health of the elder, we cannot.


    Day care is a nice step for many families, as it means that the elder can be cared for in a safe environment during the day, while the family is at work. They can then pick up the elder and take him or her home. It's an added benefit if the day care center is oriented toward the culture of the elder. That is evident in the obvious popularity of the day care centers in Texas that gear towards a Latino culture.


    I sent a note to Kristi Gott, editor of a site called Caregiver's Beacon is California based and Kristi came back with some very good information about Latino care on the west coast. I did a little more research online and was excited to find, where there is help for Chinese, Japanese, Hispanic and other cultures. Much of it is about Alzheimer's disease.


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    A site called has multi-cultural materials for aging Native Americans. There is even a specialty called ethnogeriatrics which educates geriatric students about the specific health care needs of different ethnic groups. I think that is a huge step forward, and I hope this becomes a trend.


    We are all one. We all hurt when someone we love gets dementia or develops other health problems. We are all hesitant to give over to someone else the primary care of someone we love. However, there are cultural differences, especially for our elders who grew up in a much less global world. If these issues, whether cultural or religious, can be addressed in our day cares centers, our assisted living centers and our long-term care facilities, it will make for an easier transition for all generations.


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Published On: October 25, 2007