What is caregiving like for Black Americans?
Black caregivers are oftentimes in higher-intensity care situations providing 31.2 hours of care weekly and report lower household incomes than non-Hispanic white and Asian caregivers. Although they are seemingly more stressed, research over the past two decades indicates that Black caregivers cope better with caregiving than non-Hispanic white caregivers which could be attributed to their greater sense of community and family ties.
While the pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, Black caregivers are feeling the strain more than the average family caregiver. As they struggle to balance work and caregiving, a study from Nationwide Retirement Institute shows only 58 percent say they are financially prepared for current or potential caregiving duties whereas 67 percent of all caregivers feel prepared. The pandemic has disproportionately affected Black women who are the frontlines of the caregiving workforce. They make up an overwhelming percentage of paid caregivers, and many of these women are paid unlivable wages with no benefits.
As difficult as it is for men to be seen as family caregivers, African American male caregivers have a particularly challenging time due to misconceptions and stereotypes about their identity. The reality is, more than 15 percent of Black caregivers are men which is no small number — that’s 2.3 million African American men in the U.S.
Learning the stories of Black family caregivers helps us deepen our understanding of the unique challenges they face so we can identify the best ways to offer support. It also presents an opportunity to honor their lived experiences and celebrate their love and joy. Follow along with the #shareblackstories hashtag on social media to discover how others are honoring the Black community during Black History Month and all year-round.
The following are words of wisdom honoring the role caregivers play in the lives of those they serve.
Dr. Goldie Byrd, Scientist, Alzheimer’s Researcher, Professor Wake Forest University School of Medicine
“I decided to focus my research on Alzheimer’s because it’s a disease of disparity, affecting some populations far more than others; its genetics aren’t well understood; and it had an impact on my family. There’s a tremendous stigma about Alzheimer’s. People perceive it as affecting their social standing, their professional opportunities … they don’t want be associated with that kind of stigma, especially coming from a community that’s had an historical struggle to integrate.
I remember when people wouldn’t talk about cancer — it was taboo. Now people are proud to say they’re survivors. I want to create a buzz about Alzheimer’s so that people feel free to talk about it. I want more information out there and more literacy about the disease. We need to do a better job educating people about how to care for those with Alzheimer’s — that will help with the embarrassment. And we need to provide resources to help caregivers who have an extraordinary challenge. This disease can strip a family of so many things, including their finances.
People also need to understand that the healthier we are, the healthier the brain will be. We need to increase physical activity, reduce stress, control high blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce obesity and eat a healthy diet. Often, these things are related to socioeconomics. But where we can make changes, we should. Education really is key.”
Samuel L. Jackson – who lost his mother to Alzheimer’s
“Laughter is good medicine for the caregiver and the person cared for.” Jackson became the celebrity host for the Alzheimer’s Association’s event called Hilarity for Charity recently and recounted his days as a sole caregiver for his mother who suffered from dementia and lost her fight in 2012.
Holly Robinson-Peete – Actress, and wife of NFL star Rodney Peete
Holly recounts the day it became clear that her father had to transition from in-home care to a 24-hour facility. While the care was phenomenal, moving her father from independence to dependence was one of the hardest decisions she and her brother ever had to make. “Caregivers must accept the hard decision.”
Oprah Winfrey – American television personality, actress, and entrepreneur
Oprah Winfrey has frequently discussed the role of caregivers (both family and paid in-home supports) and getting through the process by getting help through understanding the emotions the person cared for must go through. Winfrey asked if caregivers would consider learning more from the joyful times the person may have had rather than focus on the needs being cared for aAnd to remember that the person has/had a full life of laughter, love, hope and joy.
Dan Gasby – (husband of famed model and restaurateur B. Smith who has Alzheimer’s)
“It’s definitely the hardest job I’ve ever had in my life.” The two wrote the bestselling book, “Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help, and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer’s.”
Source: Caregiving.com; the National Alliance for Caregiving; AARP; Alzheimer’s Association
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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