When the health of my Gramps started to deteriorate, tending to his day-to-day needs became a constant point of contention within our family. Where should he live? Should he have a nurse stop by to make sure he’s eating enough or to help him get out of bed? How should we bring up the issue of his driver’s license? After all, he loved fast driving. How would he feel when we told him that we were concerned about his safety?
My abuelo didn’t have any terminal health problems, he was just old and like many older adults, he simply started slowing down with age. I’d just graduated from college and was living in Southern California with my aunt. We’d decided it was best for him to live with us — two caregivers are better than one, after all. When he had a tumble in the middle of the night, we had to work together to pick him up. We took care to enjoy a nice meal together whenever we had a chance at our favorite little neighborhood Italian restaurant, just to give him a sense of normalcy. My aunt handled his spending on essentials like a home healthcare aide. And when he took a turn for the worse and spent his final days in the hospital surrounded by family, I had already relocated to the Midwest and said my goodbyes from an iPad.
While my family enjoys relative advantages — we’re college-educated, native English speakers, U.S. citizens, and well equipped to take the time and resources needed to find out what we need to do to address my Gramps’ needs — we were nonetheless thrust into the unfamiliar, and quite often taxing world of becoming caregivers.
It’s been called “the unexpected career.” When failing physical or mental health leaves someone unable to live independently, the extra care and support they need often must be provided by a family member.
Research has documented that as a society, we’re largely unprepared to deal with the volume of people who will need such caregiving as they age.
Aging at home when possible is far preferred by most older adults – multiple surveys show this – but that can create new demands on family caregivers, psychological impacts (time, stress) and financial costs. Relationship dynamics change. It can be challenging and stressful to interface with the formal medical system. Family caregivers’ uncertainty about what to do, and whether they are even doing things correctly, are also sources of stress.
When you compound these stressors with other factors: lack of immigration status, speaking a language other than English, not having access to reliably accurate information related to — not only caring for their loved ones — but for understanding and tending to one’s own needs, we’re truly facing an information crisis. As previously reported in Tostada Magazine, imagine if lifesaving information was written or recorded in a language you don’t understand? How would you protect your family?
Turning to traditional news media for information needs, especially within communities of color, is a challenge. As newsrooms shrink and efforts to retain Black and brown journalists or those who possess cultural competency have stalled over the years, the trust between members of the communities that newsrooms are supposed to serve also suffers. This is when BIPOC communities turn to friends, family, trusted community leaders, and increasingly to online platforms like Facebook or WhatsApp for information. Without the benefit of fact-checking or context, dis and misinformation flourishes causing panic, chaos, and coloring how household decisions are made.
When community members abandon legacy media, how do we reach folks where they’re at?
Tostada Magazine, in collaboration with the New York & Michigan Solutions Journalism Collaborative, is partnering with the Latino Americans for Social and Economic Development (LASED) senior center to create a group on WhatsApp for Spanish-speaking Latino caregivers of older adults to share useful, accurate information driven by the needs of residents.
A pilot of the WhatsApp project will launch this fall. Spanish-speaking caregivers are invited to an informational luncheon later this summer with Tostada founder and editor Serena Maria Daniels and Mayté Lomelí Penman, a language justice and community advocate. For more information or to register to attend, click here.
Author: Serena Maria Daniels
Serena Maria Daniels is an award-winning journalist based in Detroit. She specializes in reporting on issues that intersect food, identity, and culture.
Find her one Twitter and Instagram @serenamaria36!