I am Humberto Reynoso-Vallejo, a private consultant on health services research. A few years ago, I was part of an exploratory study of Latino caregivers in the Boston area caring for a family member suffering Alzheimer’s disease. Difficulties facing those families coping with the disease have promoted the rise of support groups for diverse population group. Support groups for racial/ethnic diverse caregivers were scarce, and in the case of Latino caregivers in the Boston area nonexistent. To respond to this need, I tried to develop a support group for Latinos with the assistance of the Alzheimer’s Association. After several unsuccessful attempts, I conducted a focus group with four caregivers to identify barriers to participation. Findings indicated that caregivers faced a number of issues including: lack of transportation; lack of available time to take off from other responsibilities; the absence of linguistically appropriate support groups; caring for other family members dealing with an array of health problems (multiple caregiving); and, other personal and social stressors.
I designed an alternative and pragmatic model support group, which took the form of a radio program. The “radio support group” directly targeted caregiver’s concerns and aimed to:
a) Disseminate culturally relevant information, largely from the point of view of the caregivers themselves, either as guest in the program or when calling into; and,
b) Reduce the sense of isolation that many caregivers feel on a daily basis as a result of their caregiving roles.
I facilitated the radio support group with the participation of caregivers, professionals and service providers. Four programs were aired exploring topics such as memory problems, identifying signs of dementia, caregiver needs, and access to services. After each radio program was aired, I called the 14 participant caregivers to explore their reactions, and found that the majority of them were not able to participate. Since the “live” radio support group was not accomplishing its original purpose of disseminating information and reducing caregiver’s sense of isolation, I decided to distribute the edited audiotapes of the 4 programs to all caregivers. Overall, caregivers found the information useful and many established contact with others.
- This model of intervention, the radio support group, showed that innovation simultaneously with cultural relevant material is promising.
- Research and evaluation should adapt to the particular needs and social context of Latino caregivers of family members with Alzheimer’s disease.
- There is a need for more culturally appropriate types of interventions that mobilize caregivers’ own strengths, values, and resources.
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