Senior care in the state of New Jersey is a unique endeavor because of the state’s large immigrant population.
Industry experts have noted that some ethnicities have a greater tendency to keep aging family members at home, as opposed to placing them in nursing homes or other care facilities.
“I think that the more culturally identified people are — this is a generalization, but — the more they identify, the more likely they are to be cared for by family,” said Dr. Jessica Israel, a geriatric physician at Monmouth Medical Center, part of RWJBarnabas Health.
She recognizes that she treats a specific subset of the population in Lakewood, orthodox Jews.
“I have a few concentration camp survivors,” Israel said. “That’s a pretty specific subset of the population that is aging out. The patients were children through the time of the war. They lived different experiences and lived in the U.S. to build a life, and have built beautiful lives and are now being cared for by their children.”
The community only trusts those doctors who come recommended by others in the community, she said.
“It’s its own insular community here, very different than the population of patients in retirement communities,” Israel said. “The decision-making in this population around health and end-of-life is interesting, in general. It’s a paradox. There is trust in the health care system and lots of distrust.”
She recalled having one patient’s daughter call to ask her if it was OK for her father to fast for Yom Kippur. Israel replied that it wouldn’t be ideal, but if so, he should at least take his medication with some water.
In the background, she could hear him saying he wasn’t going to comply.
“I get it; here is someone whose whole life was shaped by his belief system,” Israel said.
Similarly, other ethnicities, like Hispanics and Asians, tend to care for their elderly at home.
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Kyung Hee Choi, in charge of Asian services at Holy Name Medical Center, said there is no concept of hospice care in Asian communities.
Which is why the hospital is holding a large expo focused on aging next month.
Of particular interest, based on community feedback, is dementia. So the hospital is mobilizing its specialists, along with financial planners and lawyers, to help focus on aging and end-of-life affairs including a will.
“The needs are there. Many people are aging and not prepared to live healthier senior years,” Choi said.
In fact, the hospital just had a visit from the Filipino Consulate General in New York, asking what they were doing to cater to the aging Filipino community, where nearly three-quarters of the population suffers from diabetes.
“We have to provide cultural-sensitive care,” Choi said.