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Caregivers of growing elderly population increasingly diverse

As America ages, it is also growing more and more diverse.

The confluence of these factors is that the entire realm of caregiving, family members or friends taking care of an older loved one, are increasingly diverse. Society, and those involved with helping older people make their way through the rest of their lives, has to take into account the ways of which different cultures are going to approach caregiving differently.

“Rates of caregiving vary somewhat by ethnicity,” according to an article on the website of the American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/faq/cultural-diversity.aspx). “For example, among the U.S. adult population, approximately one-fifth of both the non-Hispanic white and African-American populations are providing care to a Asian caregiver loved one, while a slightly lower percentage of Asian-Americans, 18 percent, and Hispanic Americans, 16 percent, are engaged in caregiving.”

The article goes on to cite a national study that focused only on people 70 and older that found that 44 percent of the Latinos received home-based family caregiving. That compared with 34 percent for African Americans and 25 percent for whites.

elder_law“In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that 19 percent of the U.S. population aged 65 and older was minority,” according to an article on the website for Today’s Geriatric Medicine (http://www.todaysgeriatricmedicine.com/archive/030209p26.shtml). “By 2050, 39 percent of the nation’s older adults will be represented by minority groups.

“The population increase of ethnic older adults is prompting research on ways to improve care for this population. Many practitioners, such as social workers, nurses, physicians, and community workers, acknowledge that they need to consider diversity when working with elder care recipients and their caregivers. Research shows common characteristics of caregiving among various racial and ethnic groups in America, as well as differences based on attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors passed from one generation to another. It’s essential for healthcare practitioners to be cognizant of cultural differences among clients and their families and tailor expectations and behaviors with respect to ethnic beliefs and values.”

“Several studies have found that African-American caregivers experience less stress and depression and garner greater rewards from caregiving than white caregivers,” according to the American Psychological Association. “Hispanic and Asian American caregivers, however, exhibit more depression than white caregivers. Asian-American caregivers made less use of professional support services than did White caregivers. Ethnic minority caregivers had a lower socioeconomic status, were more likely to receive support from family members and friends, provided more care than White caregivers, and had stronger filial obligation beliefs than White caregivers.

“All ethnic minority caregiving groups reported worse physical health than the white caregivers experienced.”

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