FAMILY CAREGIVERS: Minorities More Susceptible to Stress
Although researchers estimate that up to 50% of family members of Alzheimer's patients have to be treated for depression and anxiety, the Los Angeles Times reports that among minorities who care for stricken relatives, this phenomenon is especially acute because of their reluctance to place relatives in nursing homes. According to social workers, Latinas tend to "report the highest levels of stress and depression." Language barriers, "limited access to medical services, lack of information about the disorder and poverty compound the isolation and pressure." Using funds raised from a box taxpayers checked on their state tax returns to donate to such causes, a team of researchers led by Bryan Kemp, director of gerontology programs at the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey and co-director of a state-funded Alzheimer's center, "studied stress among 202 people of various ethnic backgrounds who took care of a husband or wife with Alzheimer's." They found that up to 75% of Mexican American women who cared for a sick relative "had a substantial mental health problem." Kemp attributed this partly to their reluctance to place relatives in nursing homes. "It's more a sense of duty and feeling guilty that if they put someone in a long-term facility, they've somehow failed," he said. By contrast, he said, for African Americans, "spirituality was a very big buffer against their stress," while Asian families "often accept memory loss as normal because acknowledging dementia can bring shame." The Times reports that Kemp "tries to intervene by helping caregivers get treatment, find educational and support groups and use community adult day-care centers." Doctors and social workers also are starting to recognize that cultural differences require different approaches to working with family caregivers. And while Medi-Cal may pay for some services to ease the burden for family caregivers, Kemp said getting the word out has been difficult. Dr. Steven DeKosky, director of an Alzheimer's center at the University of Pittsburgh, said, "It helps if you have members of the minority community working with you" (Allen, 8/2). The Los Angeles Times Health Section also features a guide to financing long term care (8/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.