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Overview of Latino Culture

Conference held at Belmont Center for Comprehensive Treatment on October 6, 2004

New Directions in Geriatric Behavioral Health: Serving Older Persons of Different Cultures The Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Latinos are united by a common language. Latinos or Hispanics have some differences, but generalizations can be made. Certain attitudes and values are common in Latino culture.

(Sue & Sue, 1990).

In Latino cultures the elderly are believed to have inner strength. The elderly also consider themselves to be important members of the family and not ashamed to ask for help (Holmes & Holmes, 1995; Paz, 1993).

Latino elderly continue to occupy a central role in the family and are treated with respect (respeto), status (su lugar), and authority (su experiencia y sabiduria) (Paz, 1993).

Frequent visits by children play a major role in caring for the aging and providing assistance. This is particularly true for daughters. Older women expect to be taken care of during old age by the adult children. The assistance by the children is expected and does not result in diminished feelings of self-worth (Holmes & Holmes, 1995; Paz, 1993).

When a parents' condition severely deteriorates formal services may be used by the family. Institutionalization, however, is rare (Holmes & Holmes, 1995).

Mental disorder (enfermedad mental or crisis nerviosa or ataque de nervios in English nervous crisis) is less severe than being "insane" (estar loco). Nervios is a culturally acceptable and nonstigmatizing term for distress and illness among Latinos. If a person is loco then they have a complete loss of control or withdrawal (Paniagua, 1994).


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Holmes, E.R., & Holmes, L.D. (1995). Other cultures, elder years. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Kaiser, A.S., Katz, R., & Shaw, B.F. (1998). Cultural issues on the management of depression. In S.S. Kazarian & D.R. Evans (Eds.), Cultural clinical psychology: Theory, research and practice (pp. 177-214). New York: Oxford University Press.

Paniagua, F.A. (1994). Assessing and treating culturally diverse clients. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Paz, J.J. (1993). Support of Hispanic Elderly. In H. McAdoo (Ed.), Family ethnicity (pp. 177-190). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Trevino, C.V., & de Viesca, M.R. (1995). Ancient beliefs and psychiatry in Mexico. In I. Al-Issa (Ed.), Handbook of culture and mental illness (pp.231-238). Madison, WI: International Universities Press.

Wing Sue, D., & Sue, D. (1990). Counseling American Indians. In Counseling the culturally different: Theory and practice (pp. 175-188). New York: Wiley.

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