Informal Caregiving

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Comparisons of informal caregiving by Black and White older adults showed that Blacks were more likely to be caregivers and more likely to assist friends. Blacks have frequent contact with family, relatives, friends and neighbors, although they utilize the members of their network differently for emergency and non-emergency situations (Petchers, 1987).

It has been noted that the probability of caregiving in African Americans increased in those who are married, with substantial amounts of care to others with health problems and disability provided by those older than age 65 (McCann et al., 2000).

In a study of African American caregiving for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease, it was shown that caregiving, a traditionally female role, is not only a traditional family value, but an act of love, and that frequently, social supports serve to mediate caregiver burden (Steritt, 1998). It has been noted that Black caregivers report less depression than White caregivers and have greater self-efficiency in managing caregiving problems (Haley et al., 1996).

Although African Americans have been found to be in potentially more severe caregiving situations than Whites, they had more favorable psychological indicators of stress. While Black and White caregivers differed in coping responses, they did not differ in social supports in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease (Wallsten, 2000).

White caregivers are more likely to be spouses whereas African American caregivers are more likely to be adult children, extended relatives or friends. (Dilworth-Anderson 2002)

In general African American caregivers as compared to white caregivers are more likely to be younger, unmarried, with less formal education and fewer financial resources (Haley, 1993).
Because of their lower income and higher poverty rates, the financial stress of care giving may pose more of an emotional burden on African American caregivers. African American compared to white caregivers are more likely to provide more hours of care, higher intensity care and to report unmet needs in terms of support and access to services (Piquant, 2005; McCann et al. 2000).

Many African American caregivers are also actively caring for more than one person such as children, grandchildren or other family members (McCann 2000). Even though African American caregivers are caring for severely debilitated older adults and other family members, they are less likely than White caregivers to use formal care services such as nursing homes (Wallace 1998).

Previous research may have overestimated the availability and extent of support that African American caregivers receive from other family members (Cox, 1996). Though there may appear to be a large family network available for care giving, interviews with some African American caregivers indicates in some cases that there are few opportunities for shared responsibility and shared decision making and as a result one primary caregiver becomes the sole-decision.