Many Chinese American seniors in Chicago suffer psychological distress, physical limitations and financial hardships, according to The Pine Report, a new study about the health and well-being of older adults.
The Chinese American Service League, a nonprofit providing in-home aid and day services to more than 900 Chicago seniors, partnered with Rush University Medical Center for the report. From 2010 to 2013, researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with more than 3,000 seniors between 60 to 105 years old.
“Seniors are our biggest focus,” said CASL President Bernarda Wong, who helped form the organization 34 years ago with her friend and colleague, Esther Wong.
More than 75 percent of the community served at the CASL speaks and reads Chinese only at home, according to the report. Another 20 percent prefers Chinese. The league devotes resources to new immigrants who do not understand English. ”Sometimes the elderly come in with federal documents and mail they cannot understand, so we help them,” said Bernarda Wong.
More than half of the community’s seniors suffer from one or more limitations to carrying out instrumental activities of daily life, such as managing money, preparing meals or housework. ”We train volunteers to do household chores and go into the homes of the seniors” Bernarda Wong said. About two-thirds of the seniors served suffer from more than one chronic illness.
But despite the league’s vast assistance to thousands of Chinese Americans, many of them still sidestep discussions about end of life and advance care planning, said Debra Chow, an elderly service social worker with the nonprofit’s in-home care services. “It is too taboo for them. End of life is something very scary to all of us.”
“That is not a topic that we have touched on a large scale,” Bernarda Wong said, although noting the growing need for such discussions. “We are eager to work with Life Matters Media, to plan a seminar and allow our clients to ask questions and soak in information,” Chow said.
“Many seniors do not want to bother their families, so they keep it to themselves,” Bernarda Wong said.
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