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Exploring the cultural ties to caregiving

Master of Public Health student and Graduate Research Assistant Adrian Rodriguez and School of Public and Population Health Program Manager Taylor Neher recently completed the first phase of a project report titled, “Improving Hispanic Family Caregiver Projects: Identifying How Unique Barriers and Cultural Values Influence Service Utilization and Caregiver Roles.”

Adrian Rodriguez
Adrian Rodriguez

This project, which was commissioned by the Family Caregiver Navigator (FCN) with the Center for the Study of Aging, aims to provide support and resources to Idaho’s caregivers. Just as every caregiver may play a different role among their family, caregiver experiences vary based on their cultural backgrounds. 

Rodriguez, who graduated with his undergraduate Public Health degree in May, said he and the FCN wanted to establish a better understanding of how the personal cultural values of  Hispanic caregivers impact their caregiving experience.  This work is pertinent to Idaho as the Hispanic and Latino communities make up 13% of Idaho’s population and are essential to the agriculture and service economies.

“This project exists to help the Family Caregiver Navigators learn how to be better stewards in the Hispanic community and among Hispanic caregivers,” Neher said.

Taylor Neher
Taylor Neher

As part of the early stages of their report, Rodriguez and Neher conducted a literature review to help them identify the kind of information that already exists about engaging Hispanic communities, and how their cultural values and unique barriers influence care giving service utilization. This preliminary research, Neher said, has already acted as a resource guide to share with FCN partners.

Rodriguez said three findings stood out in their research that help showcase how Hispanic cultural values and potential barriers play a role in caregiving — a strong connection to family and female gender roles, language barriers and immigration and socioeconomic status. 


Familismo and Marianismo

Familismo refers to the strong family closeness many Hispanic families value, Rodriguez said. This influences Hispanic families to forgo caregiving services and instead place a family member in the role of caregiver for older family members. 

Often, the family member that becomes the sole caregiver is female. Marianismo refers to the cultural value of women being of service to their families as much as possible. 


Language Barriers

According to the report, Hispanic communities are disproportionately affected by limited English proficiency and low health literacy, reducing their ability to access needed healthcare services. 


Immigration and Socioeconomic Status

One of the reasons Hispanic families may choose to keep caregiving close to their family circle is due to their immigration and socioeconomic circumstances. 

One’s immigration status could be at risk if certain government information is needed to utilize an assisted living facility.

Rodriguez said the FCN project hopes to help caregivers balance their cultural values with healthy caregiving practices and provide them with opportunities to overcome the barriers they may face in their role as caregivers.

Rodriguez and Neher hope to turn this preliminary report into a more comprehensive research publication that includes key informant interviews with public health program leaders working in predominately Hispanic communities. With the help of an advisory committee, the two will then disperse this information to FCN partners and community members.

Over the summer, Rodriguez and Neher conducted interviews with community members and will be using that information to reinforce the need for culturally appropriate public health and social services. 

“A one size fits all approach does not work,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot of diversity within the Hispanic community and the interviews have provided valuable insight on considerations for engaging Hispanic communities.”