Naochue Yang, a Hmong soldier who was part of a CIA-backed secret army during the Vietnam War, is 76 and weak from diabetes and heart and kidney failure.
He needs help getting up, going to the bathroom, eating and bathing. But the last thing his sons want to do is put him in a nursing home. In their culture, they said, that is taboo.
William and Peter Yang have been trained to get paid through Medicaid, the state-federal health program for people with low incomes, to care for their father at his Sun Prairie home.
They work for SoSiab Care, a personal care agency in Madison that primarily serves the Hmong community.
SoSiab, which provided more-intensive home care since 2003, switched to personal care in December and opened a new office last month on East Washington Avenue.
Eternity Homecare, another personal care agency focusing on the Hmong community, opened in May on Applegate Road, off of Greenway Cross.
Owners of both agencies said they accept clients of any ethnic group, not just the Hmong. But they said the goal is to provide culturally relevant care while keeping people out of nursing homes, which can cost the state much more than personal care.
“Culturally, we have to take care of our parents and not throw them in the nursing home,” said Shoua Yang Vue, who owns SoSiab with her husband, Songlue Vue.
SoSiab (“shaw-SHEE-ah”) is a Hmong phrase for “tender love and care.”
Wisconsin has 43 personal care agencies and 60 counties that provide personal care services. But the concept has only recently become well known in the Hmong community, said Vang Thao, owner of Eternity.
Several of the 80 or so clients at SoSiab have war injuries, including two with missing eyes and one with a missing finger, said Luane Hendrickson, a nurse who assesses the client’s needs for personal care.
“They’re veterans, but this is all they get,” she said.
Peter Yang, whose brother William provides most of their father’s care, said keeping him at home has helped him make it through several serious illnesses.
“If he was in a nursing home, he wouldn’t have survived this long,” Peter Yang said.