When Your Culture Expects You to Age in Place at Home

At age 60, Jessica Kim’s mother was diagnosed. Pancreatic cancer. During the first years of her mother’s illness, Kim’s parents were still living in their home in New Jersey. During one visit, Kim found fast food wrappers strewn around the house. She realized they were struggling to take care of themselves, and moved them into her home in Boston.

“I didn’t think twice about it,” says Kim, who is Korean-American. Her husband, also Korean-American, was immediately on board. Living in a biracial household was the norm for her growing up, as her grandmother lived with her family until she died when Kim was in the third grade.

But the challenges of caring for a terminally ill parent became too much, and Kim struggled while juggling three children and a career. After 6 months, she quit her job to become a full-time caregiver.

Although his mother had passed away. Hospice At home 5 years ago, Kim’s father, now 84, lives with the family. He tried to live on his own again after his wife’s death, but after multiple falls and emergency room visits, Kim moved him permanently into the family home. Supporting an aging loved one into old age is part of her family values, she says, as it is for families from many backgrounds.

“How we love and care for each other and express that is rooted in these cultural norms and expectations,” says Kim. “There is no right or wrong, but understanding how these cultural values ​​shape our choices is important if we want to better support caregivers.”

Through her grief after her mother’s death, Kim realized that caregiving and aging resources are available everywhere and how easy it is for people to connect with them, and she co-founded caregiving platform ianacare. laid the foundation “I really thought I was alone in this situation, and when you’re stressed, you just respond and survive.”

Definition of aging in place

Definitions of aging vary widely from place to place, but a 2020 article in the journal Innovation in Aging The term is defined as “the journey to participate in one’s community while maintaining independence in one’s residence.” It will look different for different families. Aging in can be done in a home that an older adult has lived in for decades, a new home moved to be closer to family, or an intergenerational home.

According to the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging, most seniors — 88% — say they want to age in their own homes. But it’s not that simple, as homes often need to be outfitted with systems and modifications (such as bathroom grab bars, wheelchair ramps, or fall detection technology) to make this reality safer.

Families face many challenges, especially if they live far apart. Difficult health conditions can be difficult to manage from afar — or even when you’re caring for a loved one at home.

“When things are happening in a private home, we consider it a private matter, and the onus is on individuals and family members to find out,” says Jennifer Molinski, project director of the Housing and Aging Society program. ” Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies. Her research focuses on the lack of affordable housing options for adults to make aging a reality. It doesn’t help that the responsibilities families face to make this a reality for their loved ones can be complicated and expensive.

Affording care

The financial reality of caregiving can be harsh. Costs are not only centered around housing or modifying an older adult’s home to meet their physical needs, but also long-term supports and services (including health care and meals) for most people. needs, which may come from community programs or from the families themselves.

“We call it the double burden of housing and maintenance: Can you afford your housing and everything you need?” says Molinksy. Polygamy can be a solution, and although it can be beneficial, it puts some financial pressure on families.

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), in 2020, 53 million Americans were providing unpaid caregiving – and nearly half of them cited financial stress due to caregiving. Six in 10 working caregivers say their responsibilities at home have affected their careers. The NAC notes that half of those who quit their jobs did so to spend more time with a loved one.

Collectively, these caregivers provide the equivalent of $470 billion in unpaid care, reports show. “Caregivers are becoming the invisible backbone of health care. As adults age, we need to honor the caregiver role,” said Sarita A. Mohanty, MD, MP. says H., president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation, which focuses on transforming care for older adults.

Cultural expectations and a sense of responsibility to provide for aging in place are motivating factors for those who want to make aging in place a reality.

“Although aging is universal, the experiences of aging are different for everyone,” says Mohanty. Mental Health America reports that the experience is often different for people of color, who make up 40 percent of caregivers and are more likely to have lower socioeconomic status and experience medical racism and lack access to support services. happens. “Fewer black and Hispanic caregivers think their local area does a good job of providing access to resources, such as high-quality health care or socialization. Mohanty says racial, ethnic, And it’s this intersection of income status issues that we have to keep in mind as we look at aging in place.

Moreover, some families may not find that their long-term care options are comfortable for their loved one if the facility does not have staff or facilities that share the older adult’s cultural background, and each The object may be similar. From food and music to language, say. Allison Brothers, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University. Aging independently or with a family member, on the other hand, allows people to live in a situation that respects their cultural background.

Conversation starters

For families facing these decisions, it’s important to start a conversation with your loved one so you can understand their wishes and expectations.

“The data shows that most people are not making an active decision about where to live late in life,” Brothers says. “Many times, it’s a crisis that forces an older adult out of the home, such as a fall and resulting fracture, which can be difficult for the individual and their family. It can be devastating to the well-being of a child to leave his home and never return.”

Decisions made in crisis mode often lead to more regret and family stress.

With families increasingly separated and people living longer with complex health issues, there may come a point where you realize you are no longer equipped to support a loved one in your place. You will need to start talking with your loved one and other family members about the next steps.

Searching for resources

One of the most important things families can do is to become aware of the resources in their area. It can be a complex puzzle to find all the supports an aging adult needs, and unfortunately, the onus falls on individual families to find the pieces of the puzzle. “It can be difficult to know where to start and if a loved one qualifies for certain benefits,” says Molinksi.

If you are currently helping a loved one your age or will in the future, start your search here:

  • Area Agency on Aging (AAA): Agencies that coordinate programs that help older adults stay in their own homes through programs, such as MealsonWheels.
  • Rural Health Information Centre: Educates about home services and community support for rural residents.
  • Senior Access Points: Developed by Colorado State University Extension and the CSU Department of Human Development and Family Studies and other organizations, it’s designed as a resource for their local older adults, but the brothers say the website is the U.S. Gets traffic from nearby people, you can use it. Find resources for a variety of aging topics, from legal and financial to mental health, no matter where you live.
  • American Council on Aging: Provides a resource on how to get financial compensation through Medicaid as a caregiver.
  • National Council on Aging: Find resources for older adults and caregivers to maintain independence and age while maintaining health and financial security.
  • Family Caregiver Alliance: a nonprofit focused on improving the lives of caregivers and their caregivers.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *