In 2002, I first visited my relatives in the Basque country of Spain. I admired the picturesque mountain views and was curious about the lifestyle of these prideful people. One of the most touching parts of the trip was witnessing how they revered their matriarch, Josefa.
Josefa was in her 90s but was very much a part of the family. She was dressed in a warm pink robe and was attended to by her daughters. They always asked her if she was comfortable and included her in the festivities. She had a radiance that seemed to reflect the love her family showed her.
It reminded me of how we had cared for my maternal grandmother in our home when she was gravely ill with cancer. She spent her last days with us, not in a nursing home. We were fortunate to have the help of a home health aide. These are my personal experiences, but I was curious about the experiences of others. Do Latinos put their parents in nursing homes?
According to the CDC, there are 1.5 million seniors currently living in nursing homes. This figure does not include seniors living in assisted or transitional living environments, or hospice care. The historical view of Latinos has been that they will do whatever possible to care for their elderly in the home and opt for home health-care services if needed. Latinos have used long-term care less than any other ethnic group, but currently there are increasing numbers of Latino seniors living in nursing homes as female caregivers are more likely to work outside of the home. A troubling fact is that Latinos that do live in nursing homes have been found to be more likely than whites to live in poor quality homes.
Dr. Jacqueline Angel is researching the influence of economic conditions on elder care in the Latino population. She has found that many Latinos do not have adequate economic resources to provide for the care of their aging parents, even if they desire to keep them at home. She is involved in Lyons Gardens, a national model for affordable senior housing that provides independent living and services.
How do people decide to place their parents in nursing homes and what is involved in the decision making process? It could have something to do with the way parents raised their kids. If a parent cared for you well, it seems natural to want to care for them well.
The destruction of extended family living could impact Latinos’ future use of nursing homes. Independence is highly valued in our country and extended families live scattered across the states. But is there a cost to valuing independence? Does it cause us to outsource caring for our family? Latino family values have historically included care for the elderly at home. Will this change as future generations grow up? Hopefully not.
By guest contributor, Catarina Rivera.