Bereavement services for Hispanics: an exploratory study of Florida hospices

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University of Alabama Libraries

Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in the United Sates, numbering over 42 million and making up 15% of the total population. Hispanics are a diverse, intricate, and heterogeneous group that experiences various disparities in health care, including care at the end of life. One specific area, bereavement care, has received minimal attention in the literature, and previous national bereavement studies have not discussed ethnic variations related to the provision of bereavement services. This exploratory study, conducted in Florida, was undertaken to address existing policy, research, and practice gaps regarding bereavement services available to Hispanics. An on-line survey was developed to explore five research questions that centered on bereavement services offered by hospice agencies, bereavement coordinators' perceptions about the needs of Hispanics, and the strengths and challenges of hospice agencies when offering bereavement services to Hispanics. The sample consisted of all hospice bereavement coordinators in Florida. Initial contact was made by telephone to solicit participation and confirm contact information. An electronic survey was responded to by 73% (n = 30) of the total state sample. Results of this study reveal language and cultural barriers as major challenges in communicating with Hispanics and in offering and delivering bereavement services. Embedded within these challenges were reports by bereavement coordinators of the lack of Spanish-speaking personnel available to provide bereavement services. Additionally, results disclose that the number of Hispanics participating in bereavement services was much lower than the estimated number of potential Hispanic families and individuals eligible to participate in these services. Referrals to religious and spiritual support systems were considered an important referral source for Hispanics in bereavement agencies. Implications for social workers include the need to increase access to and the effectiveness of bereavement services for Hispanics through efforts in research, policy, and practice. Social work practitioners and researchers need to focus on the creation of instruments and processes for tracking bereavement services, and establishing practice standards for bereavement services. Needed policy efforts include advocating for more attention to the bereavement needs of Hispanics in state and national venues in addition to securing funds for creating grass-roots interventions.

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Social work