The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. partnered with AARP to host “Because We Care” – the first of a series of forums designed to provide African-American families with information and resources that will enable them to take better care of their loved ones and themselves.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee, a three-time Olympic champion and advocate for youth and families, helped launch the initiative by addressing forum participants.
Approximately 65.7 million people – roughly one-third of the U.S. adult population – are providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged. They provide unpaid care valued at over $450 billion and approximately twice the total for paid services and supports, according to AARP’s Public Policy Institute. Among African-Americans, more than half of family caregivers find themselves “sandwiched” between caring for an older person, and a person under age 18, or caring for more than one older person.
Caregiving can impact families with financial hardship, emotional stress and job-related strain. A recent AARP survey of voters age 50 and over in New York City found that nearly 40 percent of African American voters age 50+ are caregivers, and of those, 54 percent reported experiencing an overwhelming or good deal of stress because of their caregiving roles.
“Caregiving is something we do – out of love, responsibility, obligation, and honor, but sometimes, the ties that bind fray a little around the edges,” Joyner-Kersee said. “Through the Because We Care Forums, The Black Women’s Agenda and AARP are helping families plan for the unexpected. They are telling them there are places they can go to find respite care. There are people they can talk to about the financial impact of caregiving and the new health care laws. They are letting people know that they aren’t in this by themselves, which is critical.”
Added Gwainevere Hess, President, The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc.: “African Americans are twice as likely to develop late-onset Alzheimer’s disease as Whites. The incidence of stroke is twice as high for us and, among ethnic groups, we have the highest rate of disability. Simply put, we know that we are going to have to provide care for members of our families and communities. The key is for us to be prepared; by knowing where to go and what to do so that we can provide the quality care our loved ones need but also protect our own mental and physical health.”
During interactive panel discussions, health care, social welfare, financial planning, and elder care experts shared caregiving resources, discussed how to prepare for family caregiving, and the financial impact of caregiving, and offered tips for reducing the stresses associated with caring for loved ones. Panelists also addressed questions and concerns raised by forum attendees, including the Affordable Care Act’s effect on caregiving, maintaining a balance, and respite care.
Among the panelists presenting at the forum were: Debora Allen, R.N., MSN/MPA, Director of Sub-acute and Resident Services, Isabella Geriatric Center; Dr. Francis L. Brisbane, Ph.D., Dean and Professor, School of Social Welfare, Stony Brook University; Patricia R. Butts, First Lady, Abyssinian Baptist Church; Shaun B. Freeman, Vice President-Wealth Management, Morgan Stanley; Sheila Thorne, President and CEO, Multicultural Healthcare Marketing Group, LLC, and Vielka Wilkinson, a New York City attorney specializing in elder care law.
The Because We Care forums will take place in 14 cities across the United States. In summing up AARP’s involvement in the initiative, Dionne Polite, the organization’s Associate State Director for Multicultural Initiatives, said: “Family caregivers are the backbone of long-term care in this country and the first line of assistance for most people who need help to live independently. Our goal in co-hosting the Because We Care forums is to assist those who are providing the assistance. By making information and resources available to caregivers and continuing the national conversation around this issue, we are helping to prepare and support those who are providing care now and in the future.”
Founded in 1977, The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization that generates awareness and support for issues that secure, advance and protect the rights and well-being of Black women and their families. BWA is comprised of 19 collaborating women’s organizations – sororities, civic, service, and faith-based – representing millions of women worldwide. These include: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated; Auxiliary to the National Medical Association, Inc.; Chi Eta Phi Sorority, Inc.; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Iota Phi Lambda Sorority, Inc.; Jack & Jill of America, Incorporated; Lambda Kappa Mu Sorority, Inc.; Mocha Moms, Inc.; National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, Inc.; National Association of Negro Business & Professional Women’s Clubs Inc., National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc.; Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.; The Girl Friends, Incorporated; The Links, Incorporated; Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc.;Women’s Missionary Council – CME Church; Women’s Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of nearly 38 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse.