Academic journal article Social Work

El Portal Latino Alzheimer's Project: Model Program for Latino Caregivers of Alzheimer's Disease-Affected People

Academic journal article Social Work

El Portal Latino Alzheimer's Project: Model Program for Latino Caregivers of Alzheimer's Disease-Affected People

Article excerpt

Over the past two decades, Alzheimer's disease (AD) has gained greater public attention and is recognized as a major public health problem affecting millions of U.S. citizens and their families. According to the National Institute on Aging (1999), Alzheimer's disease affects from 1.5 million to 4 million Americans and is the most common cause of dementia among people age 65 and older. It has been estimated that between 2.4 and 3.1 million spouses or partners, relatives, and friends take care of people with AD; this estimate is expected to increase significantly as the U.S. older adult population grows rapidly (National institute on Aging, 1999).

The potential consequences of caring for someone with a dementing illness have been documented extensively: Caregivers exhibit increased rates of depression, physical illness, psychotropic medication use, social isolation, health care utilization, decreased quality of life, sleep problems, and decreased immune function (Clipp & George, 1990; Drinka, Smith, & Drinka, 1987; Gallagher, Rose, Rivera, Lovett, & Thompson, 1989; KiecoltGlaser et al., 1987; Pagel, Becker, & Coppel, 1985; Schulz & Williamson, 1991; U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1990). Although the current literature on racial and ethnic minority caregiving is small and in need of future research, recent reviews indicate that the trend toward higher distress outcomes may be evident for some groups (for example, U.S. Latinos) and less so for others (for example, African Americans) (Adams, Kemp, & Aranda, in press; Aranda & Knight, 1997; Galderon & Tennstedt, 1998; Connell & Gibson, 1997; Cox & Monk, 1990; Fredman, Daly, & Lazur, 1995; Haley et al., 1987; Lawton, Rajagopal, Bordy, & Kleban, 1992; Miller, Campbell, Farran, Kaufman, & Davis, 1995; Morycz, Malloy, Bozich, & Martz, 1987).

An overarching concern is that the need for community-based, long-term-care services will grow as a result of an unprecedented increase in the number of dementia-affected individuals in communities of color (Larson & Imai, 1996; Yeo & Gallagher-Thompson, 1996). Individuals from these communities are faced with the challenges of not only coping with a catastrophic illness but also dealing with the consequences of low access to information and long-term-care resources (Aranda & Torres, 1999; Burnette & Mui, 1995; Tennstedt, Chang, & Delgado, 1998). This article provides a description of the El Portal Latino Alzhiemer's Project--an interorganizational, community-based colloborative program targeted to Latino caregivers of dementia-affected people residing in Los Angeles County.

Latino Caregivers

The number of older Latinos is expected to quadruple between 1990 and 2020 (from 1.1 million to 4.7 million) and in another 30 years will nearly triple again to 12.5 million (Angel & Hogan, 1994). The largest growth in the older Latino population will be in California which is considered the most populous and ethnically diverse state in the nation. Currently, 12 percent of California's older adult population is Latino and this number is expected to increase twofold by 2010 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1996). In Los Angeles County, which is home to the largest number of Latino older adults in the mainland United States, 40.2 percent of the 60-years-and-older population is of Latino origin (State of California, 1998). Indeed, Los Angeles County provides a natural urban laboratory to study the special needs and circumstances of older Latinos dealing with chronic and debilitating illnesses.

Both researchers and practitioners have corroborated the fact that older Latinos with dementia overwhelmingly remain living in the community longer, albeit with higher levels of physical and cognitive impairment compared with their non-Latino white counterparts (Espino & Burge, 1989; Markides, Rudkin, Angel, & Espino, 1997). …

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