Hispanics hesitant to accept nursing homes, assisted living

Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographic in the United States and are seeing increasing life expectancies, but are often skittish about using professional senior care, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey of more than 1,300 people aged 40 or older.

Current census data show admission rates for Hispanics are well below rates for other ethnic groups. While Hispanics make up 8 percent of the U.S. senior population, they constitute only 5.5 percent of nursing home residents.

Almost half of Hispanics surveyed have encountered language/communication barriers and cultural misunderstandings with healthcare providers, the AP-NORC poll showed. Only 16 percent say they believe nursing homes can accommodate their cultural needs. Assisted living didn’t fare much better at 18 percent.

That adds up to a demographic-centric view of nursing homes and assisted living communities that ranges from hesitant to outright resistant. However, Hispanics are more open to having caregivers and home health aides in the home, the poll showed.

Latino families tend to be very engaged in their Hispanic culture, which upholds the idea of caring for family elders in the home. Community-based care models such as PACE, or Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly could be an easier fit for the needs of older Hispanics, Jane Delgado, president of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health told the Associated Press.

There’s plenty senior living organizations can do to be more welcoming to Hispanics, Ivan Merkelj, a director at MorseLife Group, a senior housing and care provider in heavily-Hispanic West Palm Beach, Florida, where almost half of its employees are bilingual. “We have therapists who can communicate directly with the patient, not only understanding the language, but also the cultural aspects of what they are saying,” he said in the AP article about the poll. “There’s a belief that it’s your responsibility to keep your mother and father in your home until they die. But once we establish a relationship of confidence with the family, that can change.”

Topics: Leadership