The aging Latino population faces unique challenges

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo"  Daniel C via Flickr

Photo: Daniel C via Flickr

All family caregivers face struggle to provide appropriate care to their loved ones, while balancing work, other family obligations and managing stress. Latino caregivers must also overcome other barriers, including language, cultural expectations within the Hispanic community, to jobs that may not provide necessary flexibility.

According to the National Hispanic Council on Aging, one-third of Hispanic households report having at least one family caregiver (36 percent). They estimate there are at least 8.1 million Hispanic family caregivers in the U.S. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of these caregivers are female, with an average age of 42. They provide more intensive, higher-burden caregiving, help with more activities of daily living, and more frequently live with their loved one than do their non-Hispanic, White counterparts. Yet, half (50 percent) of the caregivers rate their experiences as less stressful than do white caregivers.

Chronic diseases like diabetes affect twice as many Hispanics as non-Hispanics, especially Hispanic elders. However studies show minority caregivers tend to use substantially fewer formal support services than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Focus groups conducted with racially and ethnically diverse caregivers found that “familism, a primary value of Latino cultures, is often cited as a motivating factor for providing care, including the expectation that extended family will assist with the care of older relatives.”

Income also plays a role in ability to access outside care. The Family Caregiver Alliance puts the poverty rate at 40.8 percent for single Hispanic women: “lower-income caregivers are half as likely as higher-income caregivers to have paid home health care or assistance available to provide support for and relief from their caregiving functions.” Yet, more than half of all women with incomes at or below $35,000 spend 20 or more hours every week providing care.

Nearly one-third of the U.S. population will be Hispanic by 2060; the need for elder caregiving, improved chronic disease management, family caregiver support and culturally appropriate services will only increase in the coming decades. This tip sheet from Janice Lynch Schuster on Latino aging provides an in-depth look at demographics, health issues and cultural considerations reporters should be aware of as they cover this diverse and vibrant population.

[Note: While “Latino” and “Hispanic” are often used interchangeably, that’s not accurate. Latino refers to those from Latin America; Hispanic refers to people from Spanish-speaking countries. There may be overlap, however the terms may not refer to the same population group, depending on the source.” It’s important to examine the data to see who was or was not included].

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