Because They Care - Jackie Joyner-Kersee (2nd right), three-time Olympic champion and youth and family advocate, joined The Black Women's Agenda, Inc. (BWA) and AARP in New York to launch a series of forums designed to inform and support family caregivers. Pictured here with Joyner-Kersee are (l to r): Gwen Hess, national president, The Black Women's Agenda; Dr. Marcella Maxwell, a BWA Board Member, and Dionne Polite, AARP's Associate State Director for Multicultural Initiatives. (PRNewsFoto/The Black Women's Agenda, Inc.)
Olympic Champion and Youth & Family Advocate Jackie Joyner-Kersee Helps Kick-off Caregiving Conversation
The Black Women's Agenda, Inc. partnered with AARP recently 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.
The “Because We Care” forums will take place in 14 cities across the United States.