Black Women’s Agenda and AARP launch family caregiving series

4/3/2014, 11:27 a.m.
Olympic champion and family advocate Jackie Joyner-Kersee (second on right) lent her support by addressing forum participants. She is pictured here with (L to R): Gwen Hess, BWA national president; Dawna Michelle Fields, national program manager, Colgate-Palmolive Company’s Bright Smiles Bright Futures program and a BWA board member; Dr. Marcella Maxwell, BWA board member; and the AARP’s Dionne Polite, associate state director of multicultural initiatives.

The Black Women’s Agenda partnered with the AARP today 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.


The “Because We Care” panel featured an interactive discussion between an audience of nearly 200 participants and presenters. In attendance were Mrs. Patricia Butts (left), first lady of Abyssinian Baptist Church and chair of the church’s health ministry, and Debora Allen (right), R.N., MSN/MPA, director of sub-acute and resident services at the Isabella Geriatric Center. The panel also included Dr. Francis L. Brisbane, Ph.D., dean and professor at the School of Social Welfare of Stony Brook University, and the AARP’s Dionne Polite, associate state director of multicultural initiatives.

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 the 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 in New York City found that nearly 40 percent of African-American voters who are 50 or older 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.”