Spanish- and Chinese-speaking Teams Increase Access to Care

Posted by Hospice by the Bay on Sat September 21, 2013 in Inside Hospice by the Bay

Imagine that you can’t speak directly to your health care team because they don’t understand your language. You must describe private health issues, such as pain levels or symptoms, to another person, who then translates for you. Language barriers such as these often prevent patients from getting the help that would improve their quality of life.

National studies show that because of this barrier, as well as financial or immigration status issues, Spanish- and Chinese-speaking communities often don’t call on hospice for help at the end of life. In 2012, Latinos were the nation’s largest ethnic minority, yet were only 5.7 percent of patients who chose hospice at the end of life, according to the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization. Asian Americans are 24 percent less likely than whites or Latinos to take advantage of hospice care, says the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Hospice by the Bay is committed to easing access to care and increasing the comfort of our diverse Bay Area patients. We’ve created bi-lingual caregiving teams that include nurses, social workers, spiritual support counselors, home health aides and trained volunteers. They can speak with the patient whose primary language is Spanish, Mandarin or Cantonese and also help the patient communicate with family members and health professionals who speak English.

“When I go to a patient’s house, and they don’t speak English, it’s important for me to understand them so I can get the information the team needs to help them,” explains a member of our clinical team. “They will thank you for speaking to them in Spanish.”

The culturally sensitive teams also honor their patients’ traditions in end-of-life care wishes. For example, if a patient feels most comfortable being cared for at home, the team will work with their families and caregivers to keep them there. However, if a family feels uncomfortable with dying in the home, the team can help with the transfer to a hospital or a nursing facility, and care for the patient there.

As a local, community supported hospice, we do everything in our power to ensure that our expert, compassionate care is available to all, no matter what language is spoken.

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