Pandemic Shows Need for Family Talks About End-of-Life Care Desires | The State

More than 2,300 Mexicans who lived in the United States have died this year from COVID-19, close to the three thousand who died in the Twin Towers in 2011. More than 2,300 mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers that they probably died alone, without having talked to their loved ones about what kind of care they wanted at the end of their lives.

And the officials in Mexico assure that these figures will only increase during the holidays.

In fact, Latinos are the least likely to complete advance directives or to talk with their loved ones, under what circumstances, if any, they wish to receive medical interventions that prolong their life or death process.

We face the most dangerous period of this pandemic during the holidays. For this reason, it is critical to communicate with our loved ones through Zoom, Skype, or Facetime, and have these difficult but very important talks about end-of-life health care planning, should we contract this virus that it is life threatening, or the person is terminally ill.

People who are dying of COVID-19 do not have the physical, mental or cognitive condition to make their own decisions about their health care. Approximately one in three adults in the United States has an advance directive, which in the midst of this pandemic leaves many doctors and family members to make last-minute decisions without life or death information about their patients relatives.

Institute of Mexicans Abroad

I work every day with members of the Ventanillas de Salud team to raise awareness among Mexican immigrants living in the United States about the importance of the full range of end-of-life health care options. The national health outreach is part of our historical collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Relations, with the Institute of Mexicans Abroad, through the Consulate of Mexico and our educational campaign in English and Spanish, to reach our Mexican countrymen living across the country.

The national health outreach program offers services to more than one million people and their families living in cities with a large Mexican population in the United States. Our goal is to reduce disparities in end-of-life health care planning, as well as medical care that negatively impact the Mexican community living in the United States.

More Deaths

Recent data from the Government of Mexico indicate that the majority of deaths from COVID-19 among Mexicans living in the United States occurred in New York (771) and in California (474).

Hospitalization rates for Latinos / Hispanics are 3.9 times higher than for whites. As of November 2020, the United States has seen high rates of new coronavirus cases each day. Latinos / Hispanics are once again facing a higher burden of COVID-19 cases.

Talks about end-of-life care are not a favorite topic for our people, a community with the highest rates of life-threatening illnesses, such as diabetes.

Compassion & Choices has bilingual online resources, including the COVID-19 Toolkit, in Spanish and English. We also have the End of Life Decision Toolkit, in Spanish and English. This simple tool helps make it easy to discuss your personal wishes with family, friends, and healthcare providers. For more information call 800-247-7421

Many of us will survive this pandemic, but health experts say that many of us will die during this most dangerous Christmas season in history. I invite you to talk with your loved ones. There is literally no better time like now to do it in these dark times of life and death.

-Maria Otero is the national director of Latino Outreach for Compassion & Choices, the nation’s largest non-profit organization working to improve health care and expand end-of-life options. Maria lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico

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