I’ve posted a lot over the years on the factors that affect aging…and aging well so that when you are caregiving you know about what else may be going on with your older loved one. I have talked about diet and lifestyle, hereditary factors and even how to make home better support an older loved who ages in place. And I have shared what works against men to shorten their life span and add to what can affect their health in general as they age. Race is also one of those factors that in and of itself impacts how long and how well a person will live.
The American Psychological Association has recently released some invaluable insights into how to address racial disparities in health and well-being … particularly among older people of color, and it could not be more timely. There are more than four million African Americans, and one of them could be your mom, dad or older loved one, friend or neighbor. And some of what negatively impacts their health is simply being African American. The American Psychological Association suggests some steps we all can take as we support or interact with our older African American loved ones:
- Show empathy – this is different from sympathy; empathy requires a lot more listening and being prepared to not “get” where someone is coming from, but to listen just the same;
- Support their spirit – find out what centers the older loved one … nourishes their spirit and you may be amazed at the strength spirituality provides them; again, listen;
- Steer Clear of Triggers – as much as we may all have been disturbed by the present news cycle, this past week’s news coverage will be profoundly distressing for anyone who has “grown up with racism;” again, listen;
- Get informed – appreciate that your own cultural tapestry comes from growing up differently; find forums and information that can help enlighten you about the culture as well as unique health needs or older people of color; again, listen;
- Celebrate and advocate – the more you learn, the more impressed you will be of the African American heroes and leaders who truly embody the concept of “self-made”; again, listen.
Okay, I have used the word listen a great deal here. I would be very interested in what you hear and what you learn. Please send me an email (click here) or call our toll free number (855.455.5118 ext 511) to share your story. And if you want more insight, please click through to the American Psychological Association’s advice as well as additional resources (click here).
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.