BECAUSE WE CARE: THE BLACK WOMEN'S AGENDA, INC. INITIATIVE
HELPS EMPOWER AFRICAN-AMERICANS GIVING AND RECEIVING CARE
In March 2014, The Black Women's Agenda, Inc. and its National Collaborating Organizations partnered with AARP to launch Because We Care - a series of free forums that provide African-American women and their families with information and resources to take better care of their loved ones and themselves.
The Because We Care initiative was launched in New York City with interactive panel discussions featuring health care, social welfare, financial planning and elder care experts. Over the past two years, our National Collaborating Organizations have hosted 21 forums that addressed caregiving resources, respite care, the legal and financial aspects of caregiving, and how family members can protect their own emotional and physical health while providing care. This year's forum sites include: Nashville, TN Detroit, MI, Boston, MA, Charlotte, NC, Miami, FL, New Orleans, LA, Birmingham, AL, Columbia, SC, and Washington, DC.
Experts tell us that by 2020, the United States will need more caregivers than teachers. This critical need will put added pressure on African-American families as statistics indicate that ethnic minorities provide more care, use less formal services and report worse health than white caregivers." 2
African Americans are four times more likely to provide care for someone in their family, and among these caregivers - the majority of whom are women - more than half find themselves "sandwiched" between caring for an older person, and a person under age 18, or caring for more than one older person. They also report experiencing financial hardship, emotional stress and job-related strain.
"We knew when we launched the Because We Care initiative that caregiving was a major issue affecting African-American women and their families," explained Gwainevere Catchings Hess, President, The Black Women's Agenda. "However, the response that we received, the hunger for information and support that we witnessed at each and every one of the forums, has made it clear that this has become something of a crisis, not just in the African-American community, but also in the larger society."
Last September, The Black Women's Agenda expanded the Because We Care initiative by convening the leaders of African-American sororities, civic, service and faith-based organizations for "Conversations on Caregiving" - informal discussions on the financial, legal and health impact of caregiving on African-American women and their families. During this day-long gathering, organization leaders shared strategies and best practices their members were employing to address family caregiving, and which could assist BWA in empowering Black caregivers and their families on a larger scale.
In the next few months, BWA will introduce another extension to the Because We Care initiative, one that will help families begin the often-difficult conversation about providing and receiving care and end-of-life issues. Watch this space for more information about this campaign.
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 Dilworth-Anderson, P., Williams, I.C. and Gibson, B.E. (2002). "Issues of Race, Ethnicity and Culture in Caregiving Research: A 20-year Review (1980-2000). Gerontologist, 42(2), 237-272.