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Cultural hurdle to hospice

Statistics show Latino population less likely to seek hospice care

STERLING – Grace Rodriguez-Cid and her mother, Ciria "Mama" Rodriguez, were sitting near a window in Coventry Living Center. Mama, as she's known, likes to sit and look outside.

On that late October day, as Rodriguez-Cid, 52, talked about the peace of mind she gets from having her 91-year-old mother in a facility with constant care, she paused. It started to snow.

"I can go home knowing that someone is there to take care of her," said Rodriguez-Cid, who has been a nurse at Coventry for about 3 years, the same amount of time her mother has been there.

And it's because she's a nurse and had seen the benefits of hospice care that she decided to move her mother to Coventry Living Center. If she hadn't been, she said, she might not have thought of it.

Rodriguez-Cid remembers her grandfather moving in with her and her mother when he was older. It's a cultural barrier that keeps many Latino families from considering hospice or nursing home care, she said.

According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, in 2012, Latinos made up 6.9 percent of the hospice patient population, up from 6.2 percent in 2011.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 24.2 percent of Sterling's population is Latino, to go along with 15.1 percent in Rock Falls, 6.7 percent in Dixon, 11 percent in all of Whiteside County and 5 percent in Lee County. In 2010, 16.3 percent of the U.S. population was Latino.

Three years ago, Passages Hospice, which has facilities in Rockford and Moline but also provides in-home services in the Sauk Valley, started its Compassionate Family Care Program, which is aimed at increasing its presence in Latino communities, said Kaitlyn Henderson, a company spokeswoman.

"There's not enough education, and there’s some mistrust of the hospice community and the health care industry, in general," she said of Latino communities.

As part of the program, information and brochures have been translated to Spanish because, Henderson said, the older Latino population often is more comfortable with that language.

Mama has difficulty speaking, the result of a stroke, Rodriguez-Cid said, but she speaks only a few words of English.

Rodriguez-Cid agreed that a barrier prevents Latinos from considering hospice care.

"That's Hispanic culture," she said. "We take care of our elderly at home."

Karen O’Connell, administrator at Heritage Square in Dixon, has been a registered nurse for more than 30 years. She said she has seen Latino families treating their elderly loved ones differently.

"I don't know if they won't accept hospice," she said. "I think it's more in the Hispanic culture. I feel that, anyway. They don't leave them alone. They just surround them with love and don't leave them."

Rodriguez-Cid, while understanding the cultural belief to take care of family, said she would recommend that other Latino families consider hospice care for their aging loved ones.

"It's not about you looking good," she said. "It's about them looking good and having their care looking good."

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