By Anna Tse
The AARP held a large convention from May 8 to 10 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center named “Life@50+ guide.” The three-day event had hundreds of vendors, along with guest speakers including former first lady Laura Bush, renowned comedian Jay Leno and award-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg.
One workshop on May 9 focused on multicultural caregivers, and how traditions shape the way they provide care for their loved ones, what cultural barriers they have to overcome, and assistance for caregivers.
A caregiver is someone taking care of a relative or a friend helping that individual with his or her daily living activities. They can be paid or unpaid.
“In many Asian families, often the spouse, children, son and daughter-in-law or older son find themselves in the position of caregivers’ roles,” said Kun Chang, assistant executive director from the Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center, who spoke at the “Caring for all-Multicultural Caregiving Conversation” workshop.
Chang said, “In Chinese culture, caring for elders is a duty and one must take this responsibility seriously. “
Many baby boomers often find themselves not only taking care of their almost adult children, but also taking care of their aging parents.
Asian-American caregivers are less likely to report emotional stress and a high percentage need help finding non-English materials about caregiving.
In Asian culture, people seldom reach out even if they need help, as it is considered shameful or weak to disclose family problems. At a result, there is a lack of support for the caretaker. “While other caregivers might have a supportive network of relatives, ours may be far away, magnifying the feeling of isolation,” Chang said.
Many of the caretakers also become interpreters, on top of caretaking.
“I don’t only mean translating language for elders who cannot communicate fluently in English,” Chang said. “We also need to be a ‘cultural translator’ who can help our loved ones navigate the complex medical, health insurance system and deal with the many legal and financial issues that come up, as they grow older.”
Many caregivers spend all their energy on others and often neglect their own health. It is important for caregivers to understand the need to take good care of themselves first, before taking care of others.
Some home care programs are privately paid. However, some seniors may qualify for subsidized or free home care if they meet certain income requirements.
“As for caregivers, there are even some foundations that offers small amounts — up to $300 — of one-time funds for caregivers, as well as some other programs for veterans,” said Julie Richer, sales and marketing manager from Always Here Home Care. “In fact, there is help out there in the community.”
“Everyone can become caregivers, and in any time of our lives,” said Lorraine Wright, MD, a speaker at the workshop. “You have to reach out, and don’t think you have to do it all.”
Useful caregiver links:
This post is also available in: Chinese