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Cultural issues affect nursing home decision

Dear Carol: My family has lived in Moorhead for many years, but many of our extended family live in Mexico. My grandfather has Alzheimer's disease. He lives here in Moorhead. I am experiencing some clashes in my two cultures when it comes to taki...

Dear Carol: My family has lived in Moorhead for many years, but many of our extended family live in Mexico. My grandfather has Alzheimer's disease. He lives here in Moorhead. I am experiencing some clashes in my two cultures when it comes to taking care of him.

My family in Mexico thinks that we need to keep him home with us. Others, here in Moorhead, suggest we find a nursing home for him. It is getting very difficult to raise children, work and take care of my grandfather, but I feel guilty and I know I will be criticized if I put him in a home. Where do I turn? - Torn in Moorhead.

Dear Torn: I apologize for taking so long to answer your question, but I wanted to make sure I had someone who could really speak to your issue. I found that person in Ellen Navarro, director of Multicultural Education and Outreach,

Northwestern University Alzheimer's Disease Center. Her response follows:

"The decision to place a loved one in a nursing facility is difficult for most families regardless of ethnicity. However, cultural issues can augment the problem and lead to the kind of family conflict you're now facing.

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"Considering that you and some of your family have lived in the United States for some time, you most likely have adapted to the way of life here and may view things differently than when you lived in Mexico. You also realize that there are services available here for your grandfather.

"It's hard for your Mexican family to understand the pressures of a woman working and raising children in U.S. society. The guilt you feel is very normal, but there comes a time, with certain diseases, that makes home care very difficult if not impossible. Your family in Mexico may not understand the type of care that your grandfather needs. I suggest that you send them information in Spanish about Alzheimer's. Try visiting www.alz.org/hispanic for guidance.

"Also, attitudes towards nursing facilities are often skewed by stereotypes. Collect as much information as possible about the facility you choose, take pictures of the rooms, find out who, on staff, speaks Spanish and meet them. Send this information to your family in Mexico. They need to see that you've found a safe and comfortable place for your grandfather and that you've chosen this route so he will get the best possible care 24 hours a day, something you can't provide him.

"You might also stress that you aren't abandoning him and that you and other family members will be visiting frequently. Again, these are not easy decisions, but you must do what's best for everyone involved, including you and your children."

To submit questions to "Minding Our Elders" and view past columns, go to www.in-forum.com  and click on Columnists. Readers can reach Bursack at cbursack@forumcomm.com or write her at The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

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