Skip to main content

Spanish students lend their voice for caregivers

Staff from the Center for the Study of Aging and Idaho Caregiver Alliance
Staff from the Center for the Study of Aging and Idaho Caregiver Alliance recently accepted the Community Champions award from Molina Healthcare of Idaho. Photo by Julie Torresani.

November is National Family Caregiver Month, and a timely opportunity to celebrate the important work of caregivers in Idaho. Caregivers provide over 200 million hours annually in unpaid labor to loved ones who have physical, cognitive, intellectual disabilities or a mental health condition. The importance of family caregivers was recently underscored by Idaho Governor Brad Little in a recent proclamation to declare the month official in Idaho. A recent class project made the World Languages department instrumental in reaching Treasure Valley Spanish-speakers on behalf of the Center for the Study of Aging’s caregiver campaign this month.

While caregivers are trending younger and more diverse, the LatinX community is at the forefront of the changing face of caregiving. AARP estimates that 38 percent of Millennial caregivers are LatinX and 57 percent of those are men. This contrasts with the population at large where only 39 percent of caregivers are men, and fewer are millennial. Cultural norms in LatinX households may lend themselves to stronger expectations of family caregiving regardless of gender, however many people do not identify as a “caregiver.” With the need for a Spanish language campaign that connects LatinX caregivers to Family Caregiver Navigator, a free local program shown to reduce stress and burnout, the Center for the Study of Aging turned to the World Languages department for help.

Sacha Villegas and Edgar Zuniga perform the “El Camino” radio ad
Sacha Villegas and Edgar Zuniga perform the “El Camino” radio ad. Photo by Chelsea Smith.

Professor Fatima Cornwall’s “Spanish for Healthcare” team took on the task, translating a postcard, an Instagram ad, a Spanish section of the website and a radio ad that is playing on La GranD and La Poderosa throughout the month of November. Cornwall organizes community-based projects for students every semester to help students connect to the legitimate needs in their community and provide vital translation service.

“I think this project showed the immediate need for Spanish translation in community services, especially when the community itself reaches out to us for help.” said Zachary Zaleski, a Spanish major. “I feel more of a connection to native Spanish-speakers in a human sense when I see the number of caregivers that need help in our community, but they don’t necessarily have the resources that English-speakers have, especially in Idaho.”

Nursing major Bekka Scott agrees that interpretation in a health and wellness setting is critical for patients and their families to understand their options. “I have been a patient in a foreign country…where I did not speak the language, or did not speak it fluently, and it can be very intimidating. You are never sure if you are conveying the right things or hearing the right things from your providers.”

The radio ad required even more creativity from the Spanish students than typical translation. The class was tasked with writing the 60 second ad themselves. It features two students walking on campus and discussing the need to assist their aging parents. Health Sciences major Sacha Villegas, a native Spanish speaker from Columbia, agreed to lend her voice to the radio ad. Edgar Zuniga, a young local council member of the Developmental Disabilities Council also agreed. Neither had ever participated in a radio ad before but were inspired by the cause. The ad is available on Center for the Study of Aging’s Idaho Caregiver Alliance YouTube channel.

It wasn’t until working on the project that Villegas realized caregiving was a part of her own family. “I realized that my brother and I were my father’s caregivers after his stroke.” said Villegas. “I know that it was not easy for [my brother], but he did it with all his love. He is the caregiver in my life that inspires me.”

Family Caregiver Navigator is a two-year pilot that launched in September in partnership with dozens of community organizations and regional health systems. They provide options-counseling and resource referral, grounded in an evidence-based intervention proven to reduce stress. The Center for the Study of Aging and Idaho Caregiver Alliance were recently recognized with a $5,000 Community Champions award from Molina Healthcare of Idaho. These resources will be used to expand services to rural and Spanish-speaking caregivers in SW Idaho.

To learn more about Family Caregiver Navigator and other free resources for caregivers, visit or call 208-426-5899.