Lao Buddhist Case StoryUNIITEs Health Care and World Religions seriesPhase B
Lao Buddhist Case Story:A 73-year old malepresented byMalcolm Nazareth
Malcolm NazarethCase Story presenters profile
--Husband of Mariani Nazareth--Co-founder and executive director, UNIITE--Married Roman Catholic priest, serving at St. Mary Community Catholic Church, Harding, MN--part time faculty, St. Cloud State University--Ph.D. in Religion (Temple University, Philadelphia, PA), August 98--Hospital chaplaincy training, V.A. Medical Center, St. Cloud, MN, 99-01--Recipient of Anthony Soto Award, July 06, Rock Island, IL--Many decades experience in India and USAas teacher in numerous settings, and facilitator of dialogues between diverse faiths and cultures--Living and serving in Upper Midwest since 98
Lao Buddhist Case Story (1)Male, age 73Living with 69-year old wife in St. Cloud for more than 25 yearsServed in Royal Lao army before the Pathet Lao (communist) took over LaosForced to live for several years in a refugee camp in neighboring Thailand
Lao Buddhist Case Story (2)In 79, moved with wife and 3 surviving kids to OhioIn 80, finally ended up in St. Cloud, MN, where they raised and educated their kidsIn 98, just before he retired, the couple took a loan and purchased their first home
Lao Buddhist Case Story (3)Two of the couples children married Lao Buddhist spouses and settled in the St. Cloud areaOne son is a black sheep, per Lao Buddhist expectations, and is on his ownMy info about the Lao senior male subject is from this unfavored sonI have never met the subject in person
Lao Buddhist Case Story (4)Our 73-year old Lao Buddhist male has never visited a clinic or hospital during all of his decades in the USAHis family worries about him because he simply refuses to take western medicine
Subjects unfavored son says (1)Father hasnt ever been sociable (unlike mom)From his early 60s, father has seemed clinically depressedEver since parents moved into their new home, fathers isolation and depression have become more noticeable
Subjects unfavored son says (2)Father used to drive, but, ever since retirement, hates to use his car; mom drives him when he simply has to go somewhereFather uninterested in meeting non- family members, or other Lao community membersFather doesnt attend even Lao community celebrations
Subjects unfavored son says (3)Father has health issues, but no primary health physicianHe consistently rejects/resists any suggestion that he should go visit a clinicWhen ill, he has recourse to a) herbal remedies from back home in Laos and b) Buddha-offerings
Subjects unfavored son says (4)Father carries a bowl of water outside the buildingHe sets down the bowl, joins the palms of his hands and closes his eyes for a few minutesin meditationHis lips move as he devoutly says his prayers. He then raises the bowl of water skyward to the Buddha He sets it down and returns to the house
Theravada Buddhist prayer an exampleBuddham saranam gachhamiI go to the Buddha for refugeDhammam saranam gacchami I pay homage to the Eightfold Path Sangham saranam gachhami I take refuge in the (Buddhist) community
Barriers to health careLanguage? (Not really; children help out; Bridge World Language interpreters . . .)Cost? (Not necessarily; Medicare, Medicaid, Mid-Minnesota Family Practice Center, Project H.E.A.L.)Alienness of western health care system? Probably . . .
Alienness of western health care system? Probably . . . (1)Back in Laos, for decades, our Lao senior was accustomed to Lao native healing traditions and to a society with its well integrated religion and cultureThere, he also had a choice of visiting some Lao physicians (trained in western medicine) who were far more affordable than here
Alienness of western health care system? Probably . . . (2)If, in St. Cloud, one can use an effective home remedy (herbs, spices, teas) put together with natural products available at the local Viet Tien Market or even at Coborns, Cashwise, or Cub Foods, why would one prefer a terribly expensive route (western medicine) with its potentially deadly side effects?
Questions worth posing:What factor lends itself (or leads most) to healing? Is it chemicals? Is it drugs? Is it sophisticated western medical knowledge acquired by your typical biomedical specialist? Is it some type of aura around a hospital building?
What exactly is our subjects issue?(1)Is our 73-year old Lao male mentally ill? (Hes clinically depressed, probably due to -isolation from community, -haunting memories of war and of dislocated refugee-camp life)Is he culturally alienated? (Although he has lived in St. Cloud for 25 + years, he doesnt speak Englishunlike his wife, who does speak Laoenglish quite well, loves gardening, and socializes with others)
What exactly is our subjects issue?(2)Is there mental illness that is not intimately related to physical illness, age, spiritual issues? Are mind, body, and spirit split into different / separate compartments?In Lao Buddhist understandings of health and illness, is there a more holistic / wholesome way of viewing disease, old age, and death which westerners, esp. health care providers in the USA, need to grasp?
Perhaps its the western health care system that needs a cure?Despite his familys concerns, our Lao senior is hanging on admirably thanks to indigenous Lao medicine and Buddhist spiritualityhes a survivor The mans Buddhist religion and Lao culture are somehow serving him not as barriers but as aids to healthy living thus keeping him from succumbing to disease
Our case story would seem to indicate thatSome new-immigrants come up with their own resources and survive inspite of the western health care system, not because of it
Questions to research further:In St. Cloud area senior centers and nursing homes or retirement homes, is the health care system culturally compatible and religiously sensitive to Lao Buddhist seniors? Given the situation of the Lao Buddhist and other new-immigrant communities, how could the health care system become more user friendly?What could cities/counties do now so that Lao families will not get stressed out when their seniors need more accessible end-of-life care?
How have medical and social facilities met the religious and cultural needs of Lao seniors?Questions such as these are moot: +ethnic food availability? +Lao language live translators? +ethnic recreation? +access to Lao Buddhist monks?celebrations of life?feasts and festivals?
When will we arrive at a system wherethe best of western medicine will be complemented
by the best of non-western medicines
in a manner which is affordable and accessible to all?
Is an adjustment of the western health care medical system long past overdue?When will western health care providers integrate western and non-western styles of health care into integrative medicine new medicineWhen will we experience a Copernican revolution in US health care so that the people and not big bucks are up front and center?