Asian-American Elders Disadvantaged by Cultural & Lingual Barriers
While the growing Hispanic community struggles to deal with their aging parents and their cultural expectations of care, the Asian-American community is struggling with this issue as well in a slightly nuanced way.
“Filial Piety” – respect for one’s elders, plays a central role in Asian culture. According to Zhanlian Feng, a senior research analyst at RTI International who is well-versed in demographic shifts, “This idea that the younger generation is culturally mandated to take care of their parents is deeply ingrained in the Chinese culture. Children are supposed to take care of older parents in need.”
In today’s world, the traditional family structure of caregiving has shifted due to new realities. Even China itself has been affected, with the introduction of nursing homes and assisted living facilities – something unheard of there before. While Asian-Americans will only turn to a nursing home when it’s a last resort, they are hard-pressed to place a loved one in a place where no one understands them. Although Spanish-speaking home attendants and nurses abound, caregivers fluent in the various Asian dialects are scarce. In the same vein, facilities catering to those of Latino ethnicity are on the uprise, while nursing homes or day centers meeting the cultural needs of this group are hard to find.
With the number of older Asian-Americans expected to reach 2.5 million by 2020, they face a void in elder-care services with language barriers and lack of awareness of their cultural sensitivities. According to Kun Chang, Northeast regional coordinator at the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging, “Mainstream elder care providers are just beginning to realize the challenges in serving this demographic”, but he expects more community groups and nonprofits to step up and surmount these hurdles.