Special Considerations for Latinos Seeking Elder Care
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.
Government statistics show that Hispanics have a life expectancy of 82 years, longer than non-Hispanic white Americans (78.7 years) and non-Hispanic black Americans (75.1 years). Hispanic women have a life expectancy of 84.3 years. However, according to a poll conducted by Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, fewer than two out of every 10 Hispanics age 40 and older say they are extremely confident that nursing homes and assisted living facilities can meet their needs
Experts believe that the lack of confidence in these facilities stems from two major factors. First, in Latino culture, the social norm discourages the delegation of care for older relatives to outsiders. Second, there is a lack of high-quality providers for this population. Additionally, cultural and language barriers complicate the rendering of appropriate daily care to this growing population.
Nevertheless, according to a Brown University study involving 10 large metropolitan cities, Latinos are entering nursing homes at a growing rate. From 1999 to 2008, the number of elderly Hispanics living in U.S. nursing homes rose by 54.9 percent, while the number of whites decreased by 10 percent. The aging Hispanic/Latino population is expected to grow more rapidly than other ethnic minority group by 2028 and experts say it has grown and will continue to grow,3.9 percent per year from 1990 to 2050.
At first blush the analysis suggests that elderly blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are gaining greater access to nursing home care. Unfortunately, however, the growing proportion of minorities in nursing homes is resulting partly because they do not have the same access to more desirable forms of care as wealthier whites do, said the study’s lead author Zhanlian Feng. “We know those alternatives are not equally available, accessible, or affordable to everybody, certainly not to many minority elders,” he said.
This phenomenon makes it crucial for Latinos to become educated on how nursing homes and assisted living facilities operate. Language barriers and unfamiliarity with the American legal system often leave individuals within this community in the dark regarding their loved ones’ rights while residents at skilled nursing facilities. They often sign lengthy contracts that are not translated into their native tongue. And, when something terrible occurs, many do not understand how contingency fee plaintiffs’ attorneys charge for their services. They often tolerate less than adequate treatment because they believe that even speaking with an attorney will cost money they do not have. Or they feel intimidated by the thought of having to explain their complex situation to an attorney that doesn’t speak their language, when they only have basic proficiency in English.