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Caregiving Chronicles

News and analysis on caregiving topics in MetroWest and beyond.

Caregiving Chronicles


Caregiving Chronicles will present news and analysis on caregiving topics in MetroWest and around the world, in-depth Q&As with experts in fields related to caregiving and updates and announcements about caregiving resources available in MetroWest from CaregivingMetroWest.org Program Director Douglas Flynn.

African-American family caregivers face higher burdens in caring for their loved ones
By Douglas Flynn / February 16, 2018
February is Black History Month. Here at Caregiving MetroWest, we’d like to take the time to recognize the African-Americans who provide so much care and comfort for their loved ones.

Statistically, African-Americans are more likely to serve as family caregivers, spend more hours caregiving and devote a higher percentage of their earnings toward that care than other Americans. While all family caregivers are in need of and deserve better support and assistance, the needs of African-American caregivers are particularly acute and the devotion they show toward their loved ones in the face of these challenges deserves special appreciation.

“Many people will spend more of their time and resources caring for their aging parents than they did raising their own children,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins in the announcement of a campaign of public service announcements targeting underserved African-American caregivers by her organization and the Ad Council last year. 

“African-American caregivers are disproportionately affected as most are much younger than their white counterparts and often leave the workforce to provide care on a full-time basis. These new PSAs will help create greater awareness for caregivers who tackle tough issues every day, and provide information on the many resources that are available to help them meet their needs and those of their loved ones.”

African-American caregivers experience higher burdens from caregiving and spend more time caregiving on average than their white peers, with 57 percent of African-American caregivers meeting the standard of “high-burden” and averaged spending 30 hours per week caring for their loved one. That’s compared to 33 percent of white caregivers, who averaged 20 hours per week, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2015 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures.

African-American caregivers also tend to be younger (42.7 years old) than white caregivers (52.5 years old), according to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP’s 2015 Caregiving in the U.S. survey.

That survey also noted that more than half of African-American caregivers find themselves "sandwiched" between caring for an older person and a younger person under age 18, or caring for more than one older person and 66 percent of African-American caregivers are employed full or part-time. African-American caregivers (41%) are more likely to provide help with more than three Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) than white caregivers (28%).

Additionally, African-American caregivers face unique challenges. According to a recent AARP study, while African-American caregivers spend similar amounts as white caregivers, their financial burden is higher due to lower average household incomes. African-American caregivers devote more than 34 percent of their annual income to expenses associated with providing care, compared with 14 percent for white caregivers. The majority of African-American caregivers provide all or most of the care themselves, without the assistance of paid help.

African-Americans are also more likely to be in need of care as they age. “Serving African American Families: Home and Community Based Services for People with Dementia and their Caregivers,” a recent policy paper by the Alzheimer’s Association and funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging, noted:

“Alzheimer’s disease has been identified as an emerging public health crisis among African-American communities. This silent epidemic of Alzheimer’s has slowly invaded the African American community and will continue to grow as numbers of African American baby boomers enter the age of risk.

“The disease is more prevalent among African Americans than among Caucasians – with estimates ranging from 14 percent to almost 100 percent higher. The number of African Americans at risk for Alzheimer at age 65 or older is expected to more than double to 6.9 million by 2030.

“African Americans experience higher rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, which place them at greater risk of developing dementia.

“More African Americans than Caucasians care for relatives with dementia, and they are less likely to ask for support. Caring for a loved one is considered a responsibility and not a burden. Therefore, the impact may be greater for this population.”

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