Category Archives: Caregiving

Wine Around the World 2017: Austria Meeting the culturally diverse needs of aging migrants

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Purchase tickets here! Wine Around the World 2017.

Meeting the culturally diverse needs of aging migrants

Like most of Europe, Austria faces significant population aging. Its fertility and mortality rates are decreasing as its life expectancies increase. In Germany, the median age is almost 47; in Italy, 45; in Austria and Greece, 44. These trends pose a very serious challenge to European society. As Europe ages, the costs of healthcare and pensions will increase dramatically while tax revenues decrease. The savings rate will decrease too, since retirees have little incentive to save, which means investment will lessen, potentially slowing the economy further. The effect could be a fiscal catastrophe.

So, when millions of migrants, disproportionately young and male, came knocking on the borders of Western Europe years ago, many sensed an opportunity to integrate the migrants into Austrian society, boosting the country’s shrinking labor force, contributing taxes to help alleviate the country’s looming revenue problem, and increasing the nation’s savings rate. Largely, those goals were not realized.

In addition to the challenges of such migration, the health of older immigrants can have important consequences for needed social support and demands placed on health systems. In a recent study of 11 European countries, migrants generally have worse health than the native population. In these countries, there is a little evidence of the “healthy migrant” at ages 50 years and over. In general, it appears that growing numbers of immigrants may portend more health problems in the population in subsequent years.

Roughly 1.6 million inhabitants of Austria have a migration background, of which 10.2% are older than 65 years with a growing number expected for the near future as well. Yet in Austria, there has been little or no discussion of the need for culturally sensitive health care options. Elderly care for migrants is largely decoded as special needs care. Migrants’ special needs range from a language-based treatment (especially for patients with dementia) to the respect of cultural habits, tastes and religious backgrounds.

Austria now needs to focus on the impact of growing immigration on the health and social security needs of a growing and aging immigrant population. In general, growing numbers of immigrants may be linked to more health problems in the population in subsequent years, requiring new strategies in eldercare.

Wine Around the World 2017: California recognizing the need to provide culturally competent care to seniors

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Purchase tickets here! Wine Around the World 2017.

Recognizing the need to provide culturally competent care to seniors

California’s senior population is entering a period of rapid growth. By 2030, as the Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age, the over-65 population will grow by four million people. It will also become much more racially and ethnically diverse, with the fastest growth among Latinos and Asians. Many more seniors are likely to be single and/or childless—suggesting an increased number of people living alone. All of these changes will have a significant impact on senior support services in California.

By 2030 the demand for nursing home care in California will begin to increase after decades of decline. California’s community college system will be critical in training workers to meet the state’s healthcare workforce needs for the growing and changing senior population.

The growing diversity of this aging population illustrates a growing need for culturally competent care—that is, care that respects the beliefs and responds to the linguistic needs of seniors from diverse backgrounds. Respect is at the heart of cultural competence–patients who feel their healthcare providers respect their beliefs, customs, values, language, and traditions are more likely to communicate freely and honestly, which can, in turn, reduce disparities in healthcare and improve patient outcomes.

Disparities in health-care and dissatisfaction are more pronounced among racial minorities. According to a report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians received worse care and had worse access to care than their non-Hispanic White counterparts. The report also highlighted language barriers as a significant contributor to disparities in care. For example, patients who speak Spanish at home were more likely than patients who speak English at home to report poor communication with nurses.

When patients feel heard and understood by their healthcare providers, they are more likely to participate in preventive health care and less likely to miss health appointments. This can reduce medical errors and related legal costs for healthcare facilities, and it can improve health outcomes for patients. California, like other areas with increasing minority populations, will be well served to focus on creating culturally competent caregivers.

Wine Around the World 2017: Croatia Looks at Policy for Caring for the Aging

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Purchase tickets here! Wine Around the World 2017.

Creating National Policy on Caring for the Aging

In Croatia, a burgeoning elderly population and rapid socio-economic change have strained health services to the point where health care providers, policymakers, and citizens alike have begun to recognize an immediate need for alternative options for geriatric care–in a nation where geriatrics and gerontology have not yet evolved into recognized specialties.

There are not enough retirement homes, waiting lists are long, there are no hospices, there is no program to educate families in how to care for the elderly, there are no guidance centers. Home care is developing. Unfortunately, a major problem is an insolvent community that cannot contribute enough resources.

Croatia wants to address the issues of a growing aging population and the absence of a national policy on how to care for the aging. They want to look at alternative means of elder care: day care, assisted living, home care, and ways to move people out of hospitals.There are currently two options for residential elder care in Croatia: retirement homes, which provide assistance with activities of daily living and with administration of medications, and health and welfare institutes, which house those with chronic conditions. These facilities are funded through a combination of government welfare supplements and private pay; residents’ relatives are required to assist with payment when they are able to. The pressure to get into residential care facilities is intense. There are more than 10,000 people on waiting lists for these homes, and applicants often must wait up to three years for placement.

After visiting The Franciscan at St. Leonard in Centerville, Ohio, on an exchange recently, nursing home administrators conceived a plan to introduce adult day care to Croatia, resulting in the opening of a nursing home in Sibenik that provides three meals a day and a range of leisure activities–including painting, singing, dancing and playing cards–for elderly citizens.

High School Sweethearts: A Caregiver Story

JohnandWilma-croppedToday, Friday, November 27, Joe and Wilma have been married 58 years. They met in 8th grade and were high school sweethearts. Like any great partnership, it’s been a long road full of bumps and beautiful moments.

In 2000, Wilma had a stroke which they believe was a catalyst for the Alzheimer’s. It’s been a relatively slow progression, and as Wilma’s only caregiver for 13 years, Joe happily took care of everything for his wife. As a disease like Alzheimer’s progresses, caregivers take on more and more tasks. In 2013, Joe reached out to the Council on Aging of Henderson County, “I realized I was at the end of my rope, and I needed help.” said Joe, “trips out had just become nearly impossible and dangerous for her.”

Through our Caregiver Respite program—provided by a grant from the Land of Sky Regional Council—Joe now receives a small amount of financial assistance to help pay for Wilma’s secondary caregiver, Tracy. Being able to rely on Tracy gives Joe the much needed freedom to take care of errands and his own appointments. Self-care is one of the first things to go in the life of a caregiver, and it’s important to take time for yourself to prevent the ever increasing “caregiver burnout.”

John-Wilma-and-Traci

Joe, Wilma, Tracy and the pups.

When we asked Joe what kind of advice he could offer to other caregivers, or those with the role in their future, he said “Be patient and kind and remember that they’re in there somewhere, and spend as much time with them as you can, because one day you won’t be able to.”