Organization seeks to educate immigrants on end-of-life options 

PRESIDIO — Last month Compassion & Choices, a nonprofit organization that seeks to educate individuals on their end-of-life options, announced via a news release a collaboration with Ventanillas de Salud to establish a bilingual informational campaign that will be introduced into a variety of communities.

Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign is seeking to educate U.S.-based Mexican immigrants about their full range of end-of-life care options. The goal of the campaign is to reduce the disparities in end-of-life planning and health care that negatively impact the Mexican community living in the United States.

Statistics show that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting Latino communities at a much more severe rate than other groups in the U.S., as 25% of coronavirus deaths are attributed to Latinos. This suggests a disproportionate trend when you consider that Latinos only account for 18% of the U.S. population.

The Latino community is also less likely than whites to have health insurance, and Patricia  González-Portillo, national Latino media & constituency director for Compassion & Choices, suggested that this “reduces their ability and willingness to seek treatment,” which is why she feels this collaboration with Ventanillas de Salud is so important.

“Unfortunately, this pandemic has created a greater awareness of the importance of end-of-life options, so we want to make sure that people are aware of the options that they have at the end of life,” said González-Portillo.

González-Portillo said that Latino families “celebrate death” after the fact but are often unwilling to talk about it before it happens. She seeks to change this, stating that “we prepare for birth, but we must also prepare for death,” because the reality, during the pandemic especially, is that we do not know when it will come.

González-Portillo emphasized that everyone deserves to be able to make choices for themselves when it pertains to death, and especially with the uncertainty of a pandemic, these things need to be talked about before one is admitted to a hospital.

More than 160 members from Ventanillas de Salud were present at the webinar last month so they would be able to inform their respective communities. The initiative is expected to serve an estimated 1 million Latinos living in communities across the country that are identified to have a high percentage of immigrants living in them — among these cities is Presidio.

Maria Otero, Compassion & Choices national constituency manager, stressed the importance of acknowledging what being treated for COVID-19 means so people can make decisions for themselves on whether they want to have CPR performed on them or if they are okay with not eating or drinking as a treatment before a possible death. She said that death in the Latino community cannot be ignored because “it is here, and COVID-19 is here.”

Lastly, Otero emphasized the importance of providing end-of-life information to these communities in English and Spanish, as oftentimes there are many individuals living in them who only speak Spanish. This is also identified as one of the main goals for the initiative as they aim to help Spanish speaking communities.

Both Otero and González-Portillo encourage all individuals to fill out an advanced directive form so that before death, one’s wishes will be identified, and in the case of death, they will be respected. For more information about end-of-life options, one can visit the Compassion & Choices website where an end-of-life toolkit can be found.