Health Beliefs and Behaviors: Health Behaviors

Response to Illness

Filipino older adults tend to cope with illness with the help of family and friends, and by faith in God. Complete cure or even the slightest improvement in a malady or illness is viewed as a miracle. Filipino families greatly influence patients’ decisions about health care. Patients subjugate personal needs and tend to go along with the demands of a more authoritative family figure in order to maintain group harmony. Before seeking professional help, Filipino older adults tend to manage their illnesses by self-monitoring of symptoms, ascertaining possible causes, determining the severity and threat to functional capacity, and considering the financial and emotional burden to the family.

They may even resort to utilizing traditional home remedies such as alternative or complimentary means of treatment. They may discuss their concern with a trusted family member, friend, spiritual counselor or healer (Yeo, 1998). Seeking medical advice from family members or friends who are health professionals is also a common practice among Filipino older adults and their family members, especially if severe somatic symptoms arise (Anderson, 1983).

Coping Styles

Coping styles common among elderly Filipino Americans in times of illness or crisis include:

  • • Patience and Endurance (Tiyaga): the ability to tolerate uncertain situations
  • • Flexibility (Lakas ng Loob): being respectful and honest with oneself
  • • Humor (Tatawanan ang problema): the capacity to laugh at oneself in times of adversity
  • • Fatalistic Resignation (Bahala Na): the view that illness and suffering are the unavoidable and predestined will of God, in which the patient, family members and even the physician should not interfere
  • • Conceding to the wishes of the collective (Pakikisama) to maintain group harmony

Responses to Mental Ilness

Indigenous traits common among elderly Filipino Americans when faced with illness related to mental conditions:

  • • Devastating shame (Hiya)
  • • Sensitivity to criticism (Amor Propio)

Common Perceptions of Filipinos about Mental Illness

  • • Unwillingness to accept having mental illness, which leads to the avoidance of needed mental health services due to fear of being ridiculed
  • • Involvement of other coping resources such as reliance on family and friends or indigenous healers, and dependence on religion which can diminish the need for mental health services
  • • Prioritizing of financial and environmental needs which preclude the need for mental health services
  • • Limited awareness of mental health services resulting in limiting access
  • • Difficulty in utilizing mental health services during usual hours because of the unavailability of working adult family members
  • • Mental illness connotes a weak spirit, and may be attributed to divine retribution as a consequence of personal and ancestral transgression
  • • Lack of culturally oriented mental health services

Though such coping mechanisms, perceptions and traits may help elderly Filipino Americans adjust initially to their illnesses, these tactics also pose barriers and impede implementation of necessary treatment intervention in a timely fashion.