One of the most remarkable social institutions in America is the African American family.
Black Americans revel in close relationships with one another and enthusiastically embrace opportunities to gather family members and reflect on the past, while encouraging siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins to look forward to the future.
The storied resilience of African American families has been the subject of a number of studies, delving into family support structures and the ties that bind us one to another. Even the tradition of caring for aging and ailing relatives in the comfort of a family home is getting closer examination as 1 in 5 black Americans is a caregiver for family member.
Prudential Inc.’s The African American Financial Experience 2015-2016 included this growing segment of black culture in a recent survey of African American caregivers who provide physical and financial support to loved ones.
“If you look at the changing demographics of the United States, one of those demographic that’s changing is the sandwich generation. These are the people that are not only taking care of their children, but are taking care of their parents at the same time,” explains Delvin Joyce, managing director of Prudential Financial Inc. Advisors. “So we studied caregivers to see if there was any additional insights as it related to money and finance for that group, and what we found is that their confidence in their ability to care for their loved ones is higher than it has been in the past.”
According to American Association of Retired Persons (AARP,) African Americans are twice as likely to develop late-onset Alzheimer’s disease as whites. The incidence of stroke is twice as high for blacks than among ethnic groups. Those statistics translate to African Americans having the highest rate of disability. The facts are that African Americans tend to care for more than one generation, and more than half of black family caregivers are responsible for an older person plus a person under age 18, or caring for more than one older person.
Several of the more outstanding findings of the report indicate that:
- African American caregivers view their caring for others as a long-term commitment; 56 percent indicated they expect to be a caregiver for ten years or more, which is much higher than the general population in which only 37 percent anticipated being long term caregivers.
- African American caregivers spend more time than other ethnic groups on caregiving activities; approximately 20.7 hours per week compared to 14. 6 per weeks for other ethnicities.
- Nearly a quarter of African American caregivers spend more than 40 hours per week providing care; significantly higher than the nine percent reported by the general population.
- African American caregivers invest more financially for the person they are caring for; 63 percent of respondents said they provide some level of financial support for the person they are caring for, with 25 percent providing all of the financial support for their loved ones
The cost associated with engaging in care-related activities like doctors’ visits, prescriptions, in-home health equipment and providing for basic needs like food, shelter and clothing have drawn national attention as the population ages in general, and black baby boomers are becoming more reliant on their children to provide for them medically and financially.
One of the most notable aspects of the expanded research for The African American Experience study is that black caregivers are more optimistic than the general population about their ability to provide for those they care for as well as themselves, and are enthusiastic regarding the prospects for future care.
“My overall financial situation is better than it was a few years ago. My income is higher than my parents was at my age, and I believe my children will do better financially than I have,” says Vincent Sheffield, a Detroit business owner who cares for his mother at home. “I made some investments and decided to establish a family-owned and operated business. My children work with me and someday the business will be theirs, but in the meantime I have the flexibility of being available to take care of my mother as she enters her golden years,” says Sheffield. Sheffield’s mother was recently diagnosed with a brain aneurism and the successful entrepreneur transports her from their Detroit home to Ann Arbor for treatment and doctor’s visits.
As baby boomers age this important segment of the African American culture is growing, with 66 percent of African American caregivers engaged in working full- or part-time jobs. “Being prepared financially is the best advice I can offer. Get your financial ducks in a row sooner than later, and that means saving and investing so you can provide care for your relatives,” concludes Sheffield, adding, “It’s simple, just make sure that you plan for the day when you’re the one needing care.”