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How elder care changes when more nurses are Latino

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As we reported yesterday, new Census data shows that the majority of the country's seniors are white. But trawl the malls and schools, and more of the kids are Latino.

The report shows that 79 percent of the country's elderly are non-Hispanic whites, while a fourth of all children younger than 15 are Latino. It illustrates that not only are these groups separated by generations, but culture as well.

One example of when these populations meet face-to-face is in elder care because when those white seniors need help, more of those nurses taking care of them will be Latino. Gloria Blatti, director of the nursing program at Mount St Mary's College, told A Martinez that cultural competency is now a major component of what they teach.

"That's why you have to build it into the curriculum from the very beginning," she said on Take Two. "One of the big components now is cultural understanding. There's total books dedicated to this now."

At her school's program, she estimates that a large number of her students are Latino. That means seniors will have to learn their caretakers will have a completely different background than themselves.

"I think they have to understand the diversity of the student," Blatti said.

But more importantly, she emphasizes to her students that most of the responsibility for understanding should come from them, not their patients.

"They're scared in the beginning," she says, "But once they get over that fright, I think, they are wanting to take care of the whole patient and they realize how important that is."

Blatti shared one example from her own life. After her mother had a stroke, she arrived to the care facility to see her mother crying and sobbing. Her nurse was a man, and initially the other nurses thought that she didn't want a man to help her.

However, once Blatti prodded, her mother said that her late husband would be disappointed that another man had seen her naked.

"All the nurses were crying, they were like, 'We never looked at it that way.' I said, 'Nor did I,'" Blatti said, "I said, 'She's an old Italian woman that has a lot of pride like that, and her culture is that only her husband would see her.'" 

It's a learning experience that will become more common as more nurses of color enter the ranks of care facilities, but Blatti says, "It should be something we should all look forward to, because that's our future coming up."


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