July 25, 2017
Empowering Communities to Age with Dignity
By: Dr. Yanira Cruz

This post originally appeared on the NHCOA blog. For more information about upcoming regional conferences and trainings, check out NHCOA’s Facebook page.

The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) brought together members of the older adult population along with elected officials, social advocates, and service providers in a Symposium at the Miami-Dade College InterAmerican Campus on June 29th.

This linguistically and culturally safe space gave those present the opportunity to discuss solutions to issues such as economic insecurity, hunger and affordable housing, with special emphasis on Hispanic Caregiving.

This activity was part of a three day Regional Conferences that also included a two day Empowerment and Civic Engagement Training— NHCOA’s signature leadership program.

“Empowering Communities to Age with Dignity” is the conferences’ slogan for this year. With this in mind, NHCOA’s focus this year is to engage people to participate in conversations about supporting Hispanic caregivers through education and training.

Empowering and supporting caregivers is the key to help us achieve our common goals and ensure our older adults can enjoy their golden years in good health, with dignity and economic security.

Last year, NHCOA was able to bring together the most experienced professionals at national level to discuss family caregiving realities, especially among diverse communities.

Family caregivers help make it possible for older adults and people with disabilities of all ages to live independently in their homes and remain a part of their communities. Roughly40 million family caregivers provide unpaid care for their loved ones to the tune of $470 billion annually.

Non-white Hispanic caregivers have the highest reported prevalence of caregiving among any other race or ethnic group. In 2015, out of the 43.5 million people that provided unpaid care to a family member, 9.1million were Latinos. This is of extreme importance because Hispanic caregivers help delay and prevent more costly care and unnecessary hospitalizations, saving taxpayer dollars.

This is why NHCOA hosted the first Caregiving Thought Leaders Roundtable in Washington, DC and after a very productive discussion we released the proceedings to promote local and national discussions on this issue. I would like to highlights some key points that came out of this discussion:

  • There is a drastic need to understand who Hispanic caregivers are and what their specific needs are.
  • There exists a great need to conduct primary and secondary research to document the reality of Hispanic family caregivers and to develop programs and services that target Hispanic caregivers.
  • It is necessary to frame caregiving as a multigenerational issue and reach out to younger generations, who also need support and resources.
  • Caregiving as a community issue! Therefore, we need to seek ways to develop support and connections in a broader spectrum.
  • Implementation strategies need to be developed to provide education and information in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.

Latino low-income family caregivers spend about 44% of their annual income on caregiving. That is why NHCOA is diligently working to create awareness about the need to pass The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act, which calls for the development of a national strategy to support family caregivers by bringing together stakeholders from the private and public sectors to identify specific actions communities, providers, government, employers and others can take to make it easier to coordinate care for a loved one, get information, referrals and resources, and improve respite options so family caregivers can reset and recharge.

Additionally, NHCOA is working at the federal and local levels to advocate for paid leave legislation that would provide paid leave following the birth of a child or to take care of a personal or family member with a serious illness. The existing Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible workers to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave following the birth of a child or to take care of a personal or family member with a serious illness. But many families can’t afford to take unpaid leave. And many workers are not subject to FMLA.

The lack of paid leave costs the U.S. economy roughly $21 billion a year. The Senate is considering a bill called the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Actor the FAMILY Act, which would establish the Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration. As written, the bill would create a nationwide insurance program that offers up to 12 weeks of leave for family and medical purposes with partial pay.

It is crucial that Hispanics become involved in these initiatives. We need to raise our voices in order to disseminate the positive impact of these bills.

There are a many barriers to overcome and NHCOA is committed to continuing the struggle for an inclusive and quality health care system.

The American Health Care Act could be a reality. This proposal, which has passed in the House and is being considered in the Senate, warns to be devastating for more than 20 million people who now have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Some of the things we know about the American Health Care Act include:

  • At least 4 million Latinos in the United risk of losing health care.
  • Insurance companies would be able to raise rates by five times for health care plans for young people. These plans are already some of the most expensive on the market.
  • Millions living in poverty across 31 states would lose their benefits offered by Medicaid.
  • Emergency rooms would be over crowded as they would become the only access to basic medical treatment for those who lack health insurance.

With the repeal of the ACA, the benefits of Medicare would also be impacted. People over 65 and those who are suffering from some types of disabilities are could losing independence and the possibility of having basic insurance.

Health care access, affordable housing, hunger, and nutrition are just a few of the challenges Hispanic older adults face.

The National Hispanic Council on Aging continues to educate, promote and advocate for the wellbeing of aging Hispanics.

NHCOA does this by:

  • Prioritizing aging, particularly diverse aging communities’ needs in the allocation of resources and funding opportunities.
  • Ensuring that programs and benefits address the needs of the growing Hispanic aging population.
  • Continuing to prioritize and target the closing of health-related disparities among Hispanic older adults, their families and caregivers.
  • Creating culturally appropriate and age-sensitive volunteer networks that work with community-based organizations and provide seniors with information about social programs and how to access them.

By remaining united, we are able to ensure that Hispanic older adults can enjoy their golden years with good health, dignity and economic security.



The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.