Family caregivers often feel invisible. Your journey with your care partner is often incredibly private and arduous. Most caregivers are also surprised by the financial toll providing care creates on both the individual receiving care and the care family around them.
The majority of care provided is considered "custodial" in nature, meaning the care needs of your loved one are required for the day-to-day functions of life. Necessary tasks such as bathing, dressing, grooming, housekeeping, and meal preparation often fall on family members to either directly provide or hire out for help.
African American caregivers typically experience a greater financial strain as they generally have lower household incomes than white caregivers yet still spend equal amounts of caregiving-related dollars according to AARP. In recent years there has been an effort to look more closely at the disparities between caregivers of different ethnic groups.
According to a recent paper published by African American Network Against Alzheimer's, "while African Americans make up only 13.6% of the U.S. population, they bear a third of the costs of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias."
This skewed financial model also holds true for other conditions such as cancer and heart disease. AARP reports that about half of African American caregivers feel they had no choice in taking on their role, but the majority find a sense of purpose or meaning in that role.
Historical discrimination from service providers and institutions is one of the leading factors of mistrust among African American caregivers and creates a barrier to services such as respite care, training, and other types of financial and social assistance.
Healthcare providers need to continue to work with the African American community to build trust and create access to services that other groups feel more comfortable using. This can be done in a myriad of ways including reaching out to faith-based organizations, getting involved directly within the community, and by having open conversations about barriers and asking directly what can be done to educate and assist. It is also important to remember that, just like with any other population of people, service providers need to recognize all African Americans are not the same. Just as every patient or client has their own individual circumstances and needs, so does every caregiver as they try to provide for the person they are assisting.
If you are caregiving for a loved one and would like to get connected with others in our community who are walking the same path, join ABC11's Caregivers Corner moderated by Nicole Clagett. The group has more than a thousand people supporting one another and sharing wonderful information and resources daily. More helpful tips about this topic can be found on ABC11's Caregivers Corner section.