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African American Care Giving Web

African American Care Giving Web

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Published by: Interfaith CarePartners on Sep 19, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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701 N. Post Oak Rd., Ste. 330, Houston, TX 77024 | 713-682-5995info@interfaithcarepartners.org|www.interfaithcarepartners.org 
African American Caregiving
Cultural sensitivity is as important in caregiving as it is in the everyday social situations.It is helpful for team members to evaluate their cultural competence prior to providingsupport to anyone of a different race or ethnic background. It is imperative thatpersonal prejudice and stereotypes are contemplated and honestly assessed. This istrue for team members as well as potential care partners (to the extent possible). Thechance of a successful relationship increases if both you and the care partner arecomfortable with each other.In supporting a care partner in need, here are a few things to keep in mind whenworking with African Americans.
African Americans comprise ethnically diverse cultures; become familiar with thecommon culture of your care partner;
Black American (even within this group you can observe distinct culturaldifferences usually based upon economic status with those in a highereconomic status often exhibiting more mainstream culture)
Caribbean (i.e., Jamaican, West Indian, Haitian, Puerto Rican, etc.)
North, South, East, West African (each w/ distinct cultures)
 Asking questions about a person‟s ethnic background and culture can be a good
way to generate rewarding and informational conversation. More than likely,your care partner will take pride in teaching you about his/her culture includingfood, religion, celebrations, etc. It will also be a good opportunity to share yourbackground.
Family Ties
The elderly are typically respected and viewed as a source of wisdom. AfricanAmericans, as well as other ethnic minorities, have a reputation of strong familial ties.The extended family has played an integral part in the African American community forboth social and economic reasons. This strong sense of family connection/ cohesionresults in a greater willingness to support dependent family members. As more andmore African Americans embrace mainstream cultural values this has become less true.
“Contemporary African American families are finding it increasingly difficult to claim the
strength and resilience of
the kin network of the past.”
Nevertheless, African Americanstypically exhibit stronger family ties than whites.
Other factors to consider when relatingto African American families:
-residence is more prevalent among older African Americans than in other
Co-residence can be defined as living or residing together.
“…blacks are more likely than other groups to rely on family and other informalservices in times of personal or family crises.”
701 N. Post Oak Rd., Ste. 330, Houston, TX 77024 | 713-682-5995info@interfaithcarepartners.org|www.interfaithcarepartners.org 
“Informal caregiving is promoted within the Afric
an American extended familysystem because it is often highly integrated and is an important resource for
survival and social mobility for its members.”
Many families have a strong matriarch that “holds” the family together. Typically,
this is the eldest mother or grandmother. The matriarch is the center of thefamily sometimes even if a male is present. The lack of strong male presence inthe family is usually a reason the matriarch thrives. The matriarch will possessstrong feminine and masculine attributes by virtue of familial or societal need tosurvive.It is not unusual for generations to live within the same household. When visiting yourcare partner you may encounter extended family members such as grandchildren,nephews, nieces, or even neighbors and non-relatives who have known the person andfamily for many years; all of whom may play an important role in the support of your
care partner. Remember to acknowledge, understand, and respect each person‟s role.
The acceptance of your help may be a last desperate attempt to manage the care oftheir loved one. A desire for privacy, skepticism, suspicion, guilt, and high stress levelsmay be initial reactions to outside support. Accordingly, it may take time to establish arapport and eventually build a relationship.
The Role of the Church and Religious Belief
The church may play an important role in the lives of African Americans. Traditionally,the Black church has been a pillar in the African American community with regard topromoting/defending civil rights, as well as addressing social issues. The churchremains an integral part of the lives of many African Americans even today. It providesa social, emotional, and spiritual support system. Studies have shown that older adultsdemonstr
ate a high level of “religiosity and affiliations with churches and other spiritualinstitutions.”
Additionally, numerous studies have found that African Americansattribute God as their greatest source of support even with regard to physical care, aswell as prayer being their major coping strategy! Do not think it strange when your carepartner proclaims his/her great faith in overcoming, what may seem to you as,tremendous physical or financial barriers.
Social Nuances
Unless your care partner has given you the explicit permission to address him/her by
his/her first name, it is respectable to address him/her as “Mrs.” or “Sir.” If you arecomfortable with the southern custom of replying, “Yes Ma‟am,” or “Yes Sir,” you are
also safe. This gesture is appropriate for anyone considered your elder. Titles are veryimportant in the African American community. It is best to know and use them until
given permission to do otherwise. Using one‟s title or former title can also be a means
of reminding a care partner with memory challenges of his/her formerposition/occupation/role. Therefore, you might refer to your care partner as DeaconJohnson or Mother Wilson, etc.
701 N. Post Oak Rd., Ste. 330, Houston, TX 77024 | 713-682-5995info@interfaithcarepartners.org|www.interfaithcarepartners.org 
Because Alzheimer‟s
disease and dementia is often considered a normal part of agingin the African American community, you may want to refrain from naming a perceivednormal condition as a disease. Otherwise, your care partner might be offended by suchcomments.Family members may respond to your desire to extend care and support with caution
until you demonstrate that you can be trusted. Don‟t be alarmed by a reluctance to
disclose personal information. In the meantime, provide as much information to yourcare partner and/or his/her caregiver about community resources and services that maybenefit them. In time, your consistent care and support will be greatly appreciated. You
will „earn‟ your right to become a trusted member of the „extended family.‟
Social Nuances
This activity will help team members to learn how valuing and devaluing certainattributes, materials goods, etc. in society can ostracize those who do not possessthose same things. Team members will learn how the advantages or disadvantagesvarious ethnic groups experience can create feelings of rejection, frustration,resentment, etc.Create tokens (i.e., color paper cut into squares, etc.) that can be handed out to eachteam member. Give each participant 3-4 tokens. Make a few of them a little differentfrom the rest of them. Announce to everyone that the tokens that have a certainattribute (i.e. blue in color, gold trim, etc.) are the most valued tokens. Announce thatthe tokens with a certain other attribute (i.e., orange tokens) have less value. Finally,announce that yet another token with certain attributes have no value at all. Ask theparticipants to begin mingling with each other and bartering/exchanging their tokens.Participants can be as creative as they can in convincing others to give (or exchange)them the valued token. Allow participants about 10-15 minutes for this exercise.Afterwards, ask participants to talk about the process. How did they feel when theywere trying to barter/exchange the unwanted tokens? How does this exercise relate toprejudice, racism, or stereotyping? Some team members may experience rejection orhopelessness as you attempt to exchange the devalued tokens. Allow each teammember to share his/her feelings
even those who possessed the valued tokens.Team members can talk about and share how it felt to be valued or devalued.Talking Points
What has prepared me to be more culturally sensitive?
How do I evaluate my ability to provide care to anyone of a different ethnicidentity?
How can I overcome prejudice I know I have (by the way…we all do)?
How can I avoid placing my values on those I seek to care for?
How is African American caregiving different from other racial or ethnic groups?

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