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Older immigrants in the United States, particularly those who are not native speakers of English, confront many difficulties in obtaining healthcare. In order to learn about the nature of these difficulties and develop approaches to address the problem, it is important to hear from the elders themselves about the specific problems they have encountered and what they feel would be helpful for them.
To this end, staff of Project SHINE, a national service-learning initiative, which offers tutoring for older immigrants and refugees, conducted focus groups and individual interviews in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and San Jose, California, with 101 immigrant elders representing seven major ethnolinguistic groups. In addition, elders completed a checklist indicating the health issues and communication skills that were of greatest interest to them. Findings from these sessions were complemented by information gathering meetings and interviews with service providers who work with elder immigrants.
The report examines communication breakdowns that occur as immigrant elders schedule appointments, communicate with healthcare providers, and deal with medical bills and insurance coverage. The report concludes with recommendations for those who work with the elderly immigrant population, including healthcare providers, senior and immigrant service providers, and ESL instructors. General suggestions are offered on working and communicating with immigrant elders, followed by specific suggestions for each group of professionals.