Racial disparities and bias in health care can be a double whammy for multi-generational families of color — specifically when Black men are the caregivers.
"We tend to think of the male caregiver as that individual that comes helicoptering in and pays the bills or take care of yard work. But that's not all that male family caregivers do," said Rita Choula, the director of caregiving at the AARP Public Policy Institute.
AARP has found that there are nearly 3 million African-American men taking care of an adult family member or non-relative — usually someone with memory, emotional or mental health conditions.
Conversations with those caregivers reveal the unique challenges and stereotypes they face, including health care bias.
"If he is going into a situation with an understanding that there may be a bias — when we talk about higher levels of stress, that would be one thing that could cause more stress for an African American male caregiver," Choula said.
Black men are also less likely to ask for help, which can add to the stress. They're often still working essential jobs and facing financial impacts due to tough choices about balancing careers with their caregiving responsibilities.
That stress has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, as caregivers now face the risk of bringing the virus home to loved ones.
But these Black men are dedicated. A majority of all African-American caregivers find a sense of purpose or meaning in that role — more so than other caregivers.
"Increasingly, male family caregivers are bathing their mothers. That's a difficult thing," Choula said. "So, as a provider, are you talking to that male caregiver about what that may mean to them emotionally?"
Any caregivers seeking support — either in-person or online — can call the AARP Caregiver Hotline at 877-333-5885 or click here for more information.