As children we look to our parents for comfort, love, guidance and affection. In every sense of the word, our parents are our first caregivers as they are responsible for our well-being. Often as children grow and become adults the roles of caregivers are reversed - children become ‘parents’ and responsible for their aging parents and elderly parents become ‘children’ now the responsibilities of their own children.
Hispanics live longer than non-Hispanic whites, but chronic illness and disease typically define their later years. Additionally, Hispanics often face language and cultural barriers as they navigate the health and social service systems. There is a lack of culturally proficient elderly care services geared toward Hispanics. The percent of Hispanic older persons living with other relatives is almost twice that of the total older population. This means that nearly 350,000 elderly Hispanics depend on help from caregivers. Given the Hispanic population’s propensity to live longer than the average population, this means that not only do they require care at an earlier age, they require care for a longer period of time. Unfortunately, this leads to financial, emotional, social, and physical stress on the care recipient and caregiver.
Hispanics, (& other ethnic groups) are known for caring for their elderly parents within their family. In Latino countries, it is common to find a Abuela (grandmother) or an Abuelo (grandfather) or both living with their adult children and their families.
In 2008, 9.2% of Hispanic persons aged 65+ needed help from other persons for personal care as compared to 5.7% for non-Hispanic Whites and 10.3% of non-Hispanic Blacks. (2008 National Health Interview Survey) In 2007, 65% of Hispanic older men lived with their spouses, 17% lived with other relatives, 3% lived with non-relatives, and 15% lived alone. For Hispanic older women, 39% lived with their spouses, 33% lived with other relatives, 2% lived with non-relatives, and 26% lived alone. Most although older women are more likely to live alone than are older men, the percent of Hispanic elderly men and women living alone is lower than that of the general population.
The family structure of living with older parents has been a model for many Latino families with grandparents, if they are physically able to, assisting in the care of their grandchildren. The expectancy of caring for elderly parents (or a family member) is well established within the Hispanic community with the majority of the care responsibility belonging to the Hispanic daughter (and mother of her own her family). “…an estimated 8 million Latino baby boomers, is a part of a “sandwich generation” taking care of both elderly parents and children. They’re toggling between two cultures, two sets of expectations, as they face the difficult question of how to take care of their aging parents at a time of changing demographic and economic realities…” (What to Do with Abuelita Challenges Traditions, Wallet)
However, these types of care arrangements were more manageable when the traditional roles of women staying at home and being the primary caregiver and men working outside of the home were the norm. With about one-half of all American workers being women, the struggle to balance family, career, and caregiver responsibilities can cause a strain on a family.