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Family Care and the Latina Woman

6 Oct 2004

By Caroline Clauss-Ehlers

It was interesting to recognize that what professionals in the United States call "caregiving" isn't an actual word in Spanish. Some research tells us that caregivers, or those who care for an ill family member, are usually women who struggle with finding an equilibrium between their work and the care of their family. Health consequences for women caregivers include higher rates of depression, anxiety, and not taking care of one's health. For the Latina caregiver, these challenges are compounded by the fact that 49% of elderly Latinos live in poverty. This means that paid home health care may not be an option.

Dr. Jeannette Maluf, a bilingual clinical psychologist at the NYU Medical Center, specializes in work with women caregivers, and comments about the issues unique to Latina caregivers. "Language and the burden of protection are two issues that have an impact on the caregiver, who is often a daughter who lives with her mother. Because the caregiver's parents may not speak English, the adult child is the one who translates and negotiates everything. This generates a dependency through the language."

Burden of protection refers to who knows about the illness. In the United States medical system, the patient has all the rights and the doctor does not share information with adult children. This is counter to many Latin cultures that don't necessarily want their loved one to know that they have a terminal illness. Preferably, the extended family wants to take on this knowledge and protect the ill relative from the diagnosis and its burden.

Part two of this series will discuss how caretakers can better care for themselves.

This column is educational. It does not substitute for formal medical advice. Do not use this information without talking with a qualified professional.

Send your questions to Nueva Edad/Hoy, 330 West 34St., 17th Floor, New York, NY 10001
Or call at (212) 462-9464
Or write to

Copyright 2004, Used with permission from Hoy.

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