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Study: Need for Culturally Sensitive Care for Nikkei Growing

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The community meeting at Maryknoll was well attended. (Photo by Mika Matsui)

By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

Demographics are shifting among seniors of Japanese ancestry in America, but the demand for affordable, culturally sensitive senior services is as prevalent as ever, according to survey results released at a community meeting Sept. 7.

“There is a need by the Japanese American community for all four types of facility-based care: retirement, assisted living, nursing home, and dementia care,” clinical psychologist Keiko Ikeda, Ph.D., emphasized, speaking on behalf of Koreisha Senior Care and Advocacy.

Dr. Ikeda added that, based on the study, a business model has been developed with the goal of creating a facility capable of sustaining itself for the next 10 years.

Dr. Christina Miyawaki of the University of Houston interprets data. (ELLEN ENDO/Rafu Shimpo)

Real estate professional Ray Hamaguchi offered practical steps toward building a new facility. Currently, there are about 700 beds available in Southern California for seniors seeking culturally sensitive care. He estimated the vacancy factor at 10 percent.

“More beds are needed,” said Hamaguchi, one of the consultants enlisted to help interpret and apply the research data. He projects that a new facility with 100 beds would cost over $22 million to build.

In addition, the facility would have to be constructed debt-free with private donations and grants and be able to generate $6.8 million in revenue annually.

About 100 people attended the public meeting held at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Center in Little Tokyo to hear the results of the feasibility study. Koreisha President John Kanai and Dr. Ikeda moderated the assemblage.

In addition to Hamaguchi, Koreisha enlisted the aid of Christina Miyawaki, Ph.D., University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work assistant professor, and Tazuko Shibusawa, Ph.D., New York University Silver School of Social Work associate professor, to help interpret the data. The study began last December.

Shibuzawa, who was not present but submitted written testimony, noted that the cost of long-term care is often out of reach for seniors. She noted that people often assume they will be able to rely on Medicare and/or Medi-Cal (in California), which have strict guidelines that may not cover the costs of the various levels of care.

A total of 1,478 individuals ranging in age from 17 to 100 responded to survey questions. Median age was 68.4. More than half of those participating in the study were between 61 and 80 years old. The largest respondent group (about 640) was the Shin Issei, post-World War II immigrants, who are generally staying longer in the U.S. than their predecessors.

The Japanese population in the United States is growing. In 2015, there were more than 1.4 million people of Japanese ancestry living in the U.S., an 8 percent increase over 2010 census figures.

The majority of survey respondents (85.4 percent) indicated that culturally sensitive services were an important factor in making decisions. A preference for Japanese food was listed as s key factor (90.2 percent) followed by the need for bilingual doctors and staff (77.5 percent). Memory care for family members with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia was identified as the most immediate need.

U.S. citizens constituted the largest group (62.2 percent) in the study, and 24 percent were green-card holders. Generationally, 690 of the respondents were Shin Issei, 175 were Nisei, 208 were Sansei, and 53 were Yonsei.

The UCLA Asian American Studies Center’s George and Sakaye Aratani CARE program and Koreisha jointly funded the research project.

Koreisha is putting together an independent task force to look into property development and funding sources.

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