Language and Cultural Barriers in Health Services

Although  this subject veers off a little from my market, I do find it important to discuss it here too.  It is quite a sensitive issue because if there is a time that you need truly be understood is in an emergency or  in a health scare and  because it is often the poor,uninsured and  largely Hispanic population that suffer the most with this  issue.  It is usually the patient’s  family members or even children – usually minor children- that interpret for the adult with very limited proficiency themselves.  Therefore many go untreated and just see a doctor when the situation gets critical.  These facilities themselves are not staffed with professional interpreters that could help in the communication process and when they do  the miscommunication makes matters even worse.

Furthermore, when dealing with special needs children and parents trying to have access to services, information and treatment most of the information available in written in English leaving these parents with very little access to them. This is an area where I would participate simply because that information should be available to those that need it and in particular when special needs are concerned. Actually, through a family member I have become aware of this situation and  with certain organizations that work with special needs to help others with this language barrier get the services and information they need.

Finally, when it comes to elder care cultural and religious barriers play a role too. Generally, Latinos have a large sense of community and the care they receive  is  highly centered on not only in  the nuclear family but well beyond the extended family.  Also, the decision making  process extends well beyond the nuclear family and generally arrived through a consensus. Should they be ill and in a hospital, the patient would much rather hear the bad news from a family member than from a physician, or if the case may be to hear it with a family member present . There is a traditional feeling of piety, where one sacrifices their own well being for the care of the terminally ill. Women generally take this role and actually perceive it as more of a privilege rather than obligation or duty.  Latino extended families tend to be involved from birth to death and even care for  the family even after the member has passed.  These customs tend to disappear  in this society where both parents work  and having the to care  for an elderly parent at home,  it is usually ends up with a caretaker at home  or a nursing home.  Here is gets worse when the elder person cannot communicate with her caregivers (in a nursing home in particular) and usually does not get the proper care she needs. So they are usually neglected  and extreme cases abused. It is a cultural thing as well to never complain to the family so many keep quiet about their needs and even abuse which is rampant among the elderly.

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