Carlo St. Juste Jr. is on his way to bring his mother to a hospital appointment when he takes OZY’s call. A part-time acupuncturist and businessman, St. Juste is also the primary caregiver for his 69-year-old mom, who suffers from chronic kidney disease and diabetes.
“I’ve organized my time so I can do these things for her,” says St. Juste, 38. Before taking care of his mom, he did the same for his paternal grandmother, so he’s used to the commitment and balance that constant care for loved ones require. But that’s not to say it’s easy.
St. Juste, who was born in the United States to immigrant parents from Haiti, is one of an estimated 41 million caregivers in the U.S. who handle such commitments in addition to other duties, which often include full- or part-time jobs and other family responsibilities. In St. Juste’s case, that includes a young daughter.
All caregivers could use more support for what is a fundamental but often invisible role. But the financial strain on African American caregivers is particularly acute when compared with their White counterparts. Generally, African American caregivers have lower household incomes than White caregivers, but spend similar amounts of money on caretaking, according to research by the AARP. Effectively, they face a greater financial “care burden.”
Some 57 percent of African American caregivers spend more than 34 percent of their annual income on costs associated with providing care, compared with 14 percent for White caregivers. This commitment extends to people’s time — 57 percent of African American caregivers meet the standard of “high burden” and spend on average 30 hours a week caring for their loved one.
The public depiction of the kind of attention that the sick or elderly need at home tends to be simplistic, but the duties that those caring for relatives and even friends face are complex. It’s not just about bathing and feeding — millions of caregivers have to perform tasks such as administering medication, tending to post-surgery wounds and helping rehabilitate patients after illnesses or operations. Although St. Juste is a qualified acupuncturist, which gives him a greater understanding of and empathy for those who need care, he says that it has been hard to find help with and advice on dealing with some of the challenges that he encounters caring for his mother.
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