Aging in Style: Health Topics among Hispanics/Latinos
Four Ways Community Health Workers Help Older Hispanic Adults Age in Place
Most older adults would prefer to live out their golden years in the comfort of their homes. This population continues to grow more diverse – by 2060, Hispanic Americans are projected to make up 21% of the entire older adult population.1 For Hispanic/Latino elders, there are unique challenges to safely aging in place including managing multiple chronic diseases, language barriers, difficulty navigating the US health care system, minimal financial resources to meet the needs that come with aging at home, receiving sufficient support for family caregivers, and maintaining important connections with loved ones. As this population grows, it will become even more important for service providers to understand how to meet these needs.
MHP Salud is here to help! Here are four ways that Community Health Workers (CHWs) can meet the needs of older adults, as demonstrated in MHP Salud’s Life Stages initiative:
1. Educational Sessions
Most CHWs are in a unique position to provide tailored support to elderly Hispanic/Latino adults. Many older adults in this population have difficulty understanding their comorbid or chronic conditions, and healthcare providers often lack the cultural competence for working with Hispanic/Latino older adults. This can result in a weak provider-patient relationship. CHWs meet people “where they are” in terms of language, location, and culture. They provide education in a way that people understand and support that empowers older adults to prevent and manage disease and enhance their quality of life.
Because of the nature of the CHW-client relationship, CHWs can initiate conversations and provide information on sensitive topics like taking care of one’s mental health needs or considering advance care planning. These CHW-led conversations are useful for older adults and their loved ones because it provides a safe space for elders to share their thoughts and concerns on topics that are rarely discussed but are important to address to support aging in place.
In MHP Salud’s Life Stages initiative, CHWs facilitate educational discussions on topics like physical activity and mental agility. As a result of CHW-led education, MHP Salud’s older adult program participants experienced a 56.6% increase in physical activity six months after starting the program, and their reported feelings of isolation decreased by 10.2% at four months!
“It is important to educate and make caregivers and family aware that older adults are in a different phase in life, and that they may require additional help”
-Alma Ortega, CHW
CHW Alma Ortega and community members pose with
exercise stretch bands back in January, after an educational session.
2. Case Management
Sustaining long-term changes to improve a healthy lifestyle can feel impossible without genuine support and encouragement. CHWs can also provide older adults with ongoing case management to ensure that they have the support they need to make changes to their lifestyle and strengthen healthy habits.
MHP Salud’s CHWs have had success in providing such services to the aging Hispanic/Latino community in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. They follow up with program participants regularly to ensure their needs are met. When proper support is available and accessible, aging in place can become a truly rewarding experience.
“It is such a gratifying feeling to know that I can make a difference by following up with participants and knowing that they are living the best quality of life possible.”
-Alma Ortega, CHW
3. Home Assessments and Modifications
To support safely aging in place, CHWs can complete home assessments to ensure there are no potential hazards in the home that could put an older adult at risk of falls or injury. Sometimes the older adult lives alone and their family members may not be aware of how difficult it can be to get around their own homes.
MHP Salud’s CHWs provide participants with equipment to enhance the safety of their homes as well as their quality of life. For home improvement projects that require extra attention, CHWs can make a referral to project partners to complete the home modifications. In the Life Stages initiative, the most popular modification is ramp construction.
“We have witnessed older adults regain their independence after a home modification, such as building a ramp, to make it easier to get in and out of their homes safely.”
-Alma Ortega, CHW
4. Referrals to Services
Many older adults have at least one chronic health condition that requires ongoing management and care. In fact, some 56% of Hispanic/Latino older adults have at least one chronic condition.1 This makes easy access to useful healthcare services incredibly important. Unfortunately, issues like language barriers, inconsistent access to transportation to travel to medical appointments, and lack of health insurance can make accessing these services feel impossible for older Latino/Hispanic adults.
Luckily, MHP Salud’s CHWs have extensive knowledge of what services and resources exist in the community. CHWs take the time to help older adult participants access those services or make referrals and can provide follow-up to ensure that their client’s needs are being met.
“With proper referrals to services, we have been able to assist in increasing their quality of life, empower the individual by showing them ways to seek the assistance that meets their needs, thus reducing the older adult’s stress level.”
-Alma Ortega, CHW
These four CHW-led activities are essential to helping older Hispanic/Latino adults age in place. CHWs have a unique understanding of their community and their ability to assess older adults’ social, physical, and mental health needs, which makes them especially qualified to lead interventions like MHP Salud’s Life Stages initiative.
Free Technical Assistance for Service Providers and Individuals that Serve Hispanic Older Adults
Our Strengthening Aging Services for Hispanic Older Adults project is holding Virtual Technical Assistance calls to build the capacity of service providers and community members that address issues in the aging Hispanic communities, on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 2 pm EST. Get information, tips, resources, and more from our experienced team! Reserve your spot now!
This project was supported, in part by grant number 90HDRC0004-01-00, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.