Honoring Black Caregivers for Black History Month
Honoring Black Caregivers for Black History Month
Anyone can become a family caregiver. It is a universal role that most of us will experience at some point (or several) throughout our lives. While many day-to-day aspects of the caregiving experience look similar (meal prep, tracking medication, etc.), each person has their own story. In recognition of Black History Month, we’re sharing the stories of Kandis, Angela, and Vanessa--current and former family caregivers.
Kandis Draw is a columnist at Curvicality Magazine who was a caregiver for her mother for three-and-a-half years before she passed in 2014. Kandis cites lack of financial preparedness as the most common challenge family caregivers in BIPOC communities face noting, “It is common for sick loved ones to be cared for by family members, and often expected. A major concern of caregiving that is not readily discussed is the financial aspect. Trying to juggle a full-time job, or even those that may have kids sometimes is literally impossible. The demands of both can be overwhelming. Oftentimes, a choice has to be made to step away from your job, or pause in pursuit of a career move. Unfortunately life doesn't stop, and neither do bills.” She stresses the importance of caregivers having a support system and a safe space to openly express how they are feeling. Kandis and her family continue her mother’s legacy by celebrating her life and reflecting on what she meant to them.
As a senior advisor, Angela Overton’s caregiving journey started 13 years ago when her son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and her daughter was diagnosed with lupus. Her biggest challenge as a caregiver is understanding what’s best for her children’s unique caregiving needs. When it comes to supporting Black family caregivers, Angela advises to “listen and then respond” adding that, “[Caregiving] is very difficult and there are no breaks. How clinicians or resource providers tend to caregivers matters. Patience, kindness, concern, and sharing useful information is necessary and essential in the life of the caregiver.” Angela and her family are celebrating being safe and healthy from the coronavirus.
Vanessa Renee Williams
Caring for her father on and off from 2005 to 2018, artist Vanessa Renee Williams, says that her biggest challenge as a caregiver, “...was to remember I was an adult, and not to take anything personally; to be kinder to myself; to know that I was doing my best; to understand why those who need help often reject it. As a caregiver, you're often under a microscope. The stress of the day-to-day work is nothing compared to the scrutiny of those who are on the outside looking in. You're doing something by choice — not out of duty, but because you want to; you care for your parent.” Vanessa says caregiving proves that we all have much more in common than we might think and conversations, like Caregiving.com’s monthly #carechat, reveals this: “Just as the loved one needs the caregiver as an advocate, caregivers need advocates, too. Stumbling across #carechat on Twitter was a lifesaver. I learned the importance of team building. It's so easy to think you're alone, so the opportunity to communicate with other caregivers — even for a little while — is priceless. Information sharing is key.” Vanessa celebrates and values her caregiving experience and recognizes that everything she did for her father wasn’t in vain.
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% say they are financially prepared for current or potential caregiving duties whereas 67% 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% 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 our 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.
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