SOUTH COUNTY — A new collaborative group focusing on Latino outreach in south Monterey County recently hosted its first event, providing information about end-of-life care and the services available to the community.
Hospice Giving Foundation has partnered with multiple organizations in the county for the new initiative called “Juntos con Esperanza,” or “Together with Hope.” More than 100 residents attended the group’s first community outreach event Aug. 20 at St. John’s Catholic Church in King City, where conversations were held in English and Spanish about death and dying.
“It was so inspiring because it gave us the confidence that even though this is such a difficult topic, if we come together with a real genuine sense of ‘we’re in this with everybody,’ people are willing to have conversations,” said Hospice Giving Foundation President and CEO Siobhan Greene. “It’s really inspiring from that perspective.”
Facilitators at each of the 10 participant tables guided attendees using cards from the Go Wish card game, which helps people find the words to talk about what is important to them if they were to be living a life that may be shortened by serious illness. The cards describe how people want to be treated, who they want near them and what matters to them.
Each table’s choices for end-of-life wishes were then shared with the entire room.
The top six choices were: 1. To have my family with me; 2. Not dying alone; 3. To maintain my dignity; 4. To prevent arguments by making sure my family knows what I want; 5. To be at peace with God; and 6. To die at home.
According to Greene, these responses will help direct future educational activities of Juntos con Esperanza.
“This first event was a really beautiful example of using very simple tools — these Go Wish cards — to stimulate conversations with people, and it was strictly to hear from people about what’s important to you, what do you want, what do you want your end-of-life experience to be like,” Greene explained. “So it’s through those kinds of outreach activities we believe we will begin to really appreciate the needs of a community and be able to help identify what kinds of services would support and give people a sense of ‘there’s more for me here.’”
Members of the collaborative group — such as the Monterey County Department of Social Services - In Home Support Services, Central Coast VNA and Hospice, Hospice of the Central Coast, Alliance on Aging, Sol Treasures and Hospice Giving Foundation — also set up information tables about their organizations and services at the outreach event. Other partners include Diocese of Monterey, Legal Services for Seniors, Mee Memorial Hospital, Natividad Medical Center, local churches and community leaders.
The goal of Juntos con Esperanza is “to make life better by helping families get good care when they need it, in the way they need it, with respect for their culture, faith and family,” according to the Hospice Giving Foundation. Greene said the group is working together on improving end-of-life care for South County residents and to better understand why it is difficult for some, especially in the Latino community, to discuss death.
After reviewing a report that indicated Monterey County was lagging behind in the delivery of hospice care to the Latino population, Greene began to look into the reasons why this was occurring.
“We began kind of an assessment process where we worked with a group of consultants who helped us develop some questions and did some interviews with people in the communities to try to get a better sense of why they thought this was happening,” she said. “They were pretty expected responses.”
Language and cultural differences were among the leading factors.
“But really the common themes we heard about the Latino community was the lack of trust in any of this kind of care and that they didn’t really understand what the care was about,” Greene said. “There was a lot of really deeply and very intimately held personal religious cultural beliefs that kind of informed them to not seek that kind of care, and yet we were concerned that people were missing the kind of nurturing support and comprehensive care that they might be able to benefit from.”
As a result, Juntos con Esperanza was formed to help build trust with Latino residents.
“We decided to form a collaborative of agencies, religious leaders and community members to, first and most importantly, deepen our real understanding about what goes on in the community and to build some trust with the community,” Greene said. “The one thing we did not want to do was just say, ‘Go do some more hospice or palliative care there,’ because we wanted to make sure that whatever kind of care we help support financially and encourage is culturally and personally relevant to the people in the community.”
The collaborative group is planning to host similar Go Wish events in Greenfield, Soledad and Gonzales.
“We started with one community (King City), and our goal is to move through South County over time and continue to build collaboratives and build relationships,” Greene added. “That’s why I was very glad to see an email this morning about the church in Greenfield (possibly participating) because that’s another big step. We’re not only looking at one community, but we’re really looking more broadly.”
Juntos con Esperanza is an initiative of Hospice Giving Foundation, an independent grant-making foundation exclusively focused on end-of-life care and preparedness in Monterey and San Benito counties. Since 1997, the Foundation has awarded almost $25 million in grants to local nonprofits providing such services for residents.
“We are here as an organization to help change the conversation about death and dying and to provide financial resources to organizations that are providing services to families of patients,” Greene said, “and because of that, we have a very neutral platform that we can go into the communities and say, ‘We’re here to support you and help you.’”