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Elder care traditions very different depending on culture
In part four of WPR's "Aging Wisconsin" series Rich Kremer looks at three different groups use nursing homes.
There are around 30,000 people in Wisconsin nurisng homes. But according to census data and information from the Department of Health Services different segments of the population use nursing homes at very different rates.
At Azura Memory Care in Eau Claire 20 residents with various forms of dementia gather around tables during a 40th anniversary party for Bob and Lois Scorgie. Bob was has been in the nursing home for the past 10 years Lois says he was diagnosed with dementia when he was 60.
“There came a time when he was in the hospital a great deal and he fell so much that I was told that he should have a home to live instead of at home.”
Scorgie says it’s hard not having her husband at home but with Bob’s physical and medical needs taken care of she can spend more time doing what he loves like singing.
Bob is one of around 25,000 residents over 65 living in Wisconsin nursing homes classified as having a white, non-Hispanic heritage. But over the last decade that population has fallen by 10,000 people as more families turn to assisted living facilities and homecare options.
Other groups, like Asian Americans have seen numbers declined. In 2012, only 1% of people of Asian descent 65 years and older lived in nursing homes. Pa Thao is the Executive Director of the Eau Claire Hmong Mutual Assistance Association. She says she's not surprised by the numbers. Thao says Hmong tradition holds that elders should stay home and be cared for by their children.
“It’s really the youngest son, it’s his responsibility to take care of the elder parents when they’re at the point where they can’t take care of themselves. He will have his own family and still have his parents there.”
But that tradition is changing. Thao says while it’s still a taboo to send an elder to a nursing home, the parents seem to want more independence.
“So, we’re seeing that there is a trend where the older parent just wants their own space and not so much to be in a big household with their kids or their grandkids.”
Now Hmong owned homecare businesses are stepping in to offer specialized medical care that children can't provide.
In the Native American community the percentages of elders living nursing homes has been comparable to their white counterparts though the actual number is much smaller. Two years ago, three and a half percent of Native Americans 65 and older lived in nursing homes. Ho-Chunk Nation member Ron Wilber grew up taking care of his elders and now lives with his grandfather but he says families are busier and working more. Luckily, he says, gaming revenues helped the Ho-Chunk create a comprehensive Elder Caregiver Program, which offers home visits.
"We’ve finally got the opportunity to afford for our elders, I think that’s a big thing. I know our tribe, we’ve got our tribal aging units, they get nurses, doctors."
While the overall nursing home population in Wisconsin has declined in the last ten years the Department of Health Services says it's plateauing. And, with close to 19% of the state over the age of 65 they expect demand for nursing home care among all ethnic groups to increase.
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