Patti Anewalt of Hospice and Community Care in Pennsylvania spoke with Dr. Gloria Horsley about hospices and Latino culture during the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference. “The most important way to reach out to other cultures is to hire staff from that culture,” Anewalt explains. Thanks to a grant, the organization was able to hire a Latino bereavement counselor, which has drastically helped with providing support and services to Latino grievers in the area. “She’s really the right person,” Anewalt says. This counselor serves as the bridge between the Latino community and the organization.
Particularly in the Latino culture, there can be a fatalistic view of grieving and the idea that “you’re supposed to suffer.” However, thanks to experts like this bereavement counselor, the Latino community is starting to be more accepting of hospice care and more trusting of eligible services. In many Latino households, it’s more than just the patient and immediate family making plans for hospice care and similar situations. Many times, extended families are also closely involved.
Bridging the Gap
“We join people where they are” is the motto of hospice care, but Anewalt points out that in some communities not everyone involved in the hospice may be aware of where everyone stands. There’s the “importance of not assuming,” which is why it’s critical to listen to every patient and family. There’s a lot of diversity, even within same communities, which demands a customized approach. “Most people feel like there’s something wrong with them” when it comes to grief, says Anewalt, and what’s needed is just some understanding.
Most hospice programs are actually designed to serve the community—not just those who are entering care. Finding the right resources is critical, including an organization that understands your culture, community and background.