Black History Month - A Tribute to Caregiving in African-American Families

 by Yolanda Webb

 Photo taken by Yolanda Webb

Photo taken by Yolanda Webb

The Beauty of Black History is that we are still making it every single day.  As we celebrate Black History this month, it has been interesting for me to research and define a profile that summarizes caregiving and those who are entering the field of in-home care (either as family caregivers or paid supports) to help provide quality services and supports to those requiring such services.

It should be noted that the face of caregiving is changing and varies from family caregiver models to hiring quality service providers like Meritan to provide in-home care.  What are the characteristics of those who are entering the caregiving field now or those caring for loved ones at home?  According to AARP, the typical caregiver is 44.2 years old (those entering the field as well), is in very good health, has an outgoing personality, can assist with up to 4.2 ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living) and can provide a comforting and quality of life environment for the care recipient.  

Since the in-home caregiving model has also expanded in recent years beyond senior care to include, individuals with Developmental Disabilities, those with HIV/AIDS, and other chronic conditions (mostly due to changes in Medicaid Managed Care guidelines), I thought I would share the names and experiences of some famous African-Americans who have served or are serving in caregiving roles and share their thoughts on working with those with disabilities, the elderly or those with other chronic conditions.  Their words of wisdom are shared to honor the role caregivers play in the lives of those they serve.  

Samuel L. Jackson - who lost his mother to Alzheimer's

“Laughter is good medicine for the caregiver and the person cared for.”  Jackson became the celebrity host for the Alzheimer's Association’s event called Hilarity for Charity recently and recounted his days as a sole caregiver for his mother who suffered from dementia and lost her fight in 2012.

Holly Robinson-Peete - “Caregivers must accept the hard decision”

Actress, and wife of NFL star Rodney Peete recounts the day it became clear that her father had to transition from in-home care to a 24-hour facility.  While the care was phenomenal, moving her father from independence to dependence was one of the hardest decisions she and her brother ever had to make.

Oprah Winfrey - “Let the Sunshine In”

Recently on Super Soul Sunday, Oprah Winfrey talked about the role of caregivers (both family and paid in-home supports) and getting through the process by getting help through understanding the emotions the person cared for must go through.  Winfrey asked if caregivers would consider learning more from the joyful times the person may have had rather than focus on the needs being cared for.  And to remember that the person has/had a full life of laughter, love, hope and joy.

Dan Gasby - (husband of famed model and restaurateur B. Smith who has Alzheimer's) - “It’s definitely the hardest job I’ve ever had in my life.”  The two wrote the bestselling book, “Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help, and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer's.

Queen Latifah - The actress cares for her ailing mom who lives with the chronic condition of heart failure.  

Blair Underwood - The star’s mom has physical disabilities and his 2013 television show Ironside he described as “kind of a tribute to her,” as he helps to provide her in-home care.

This Black History Month, I’m reminded of the wonderful stories of caregiving I hear on a daily basis from clients, their families and staff alike, and the tremendous progress we have made in human service to ensure that those with disabilities, who are elderly or have physical disabilities/chronic conditions continue to live lives of dignity and respect.