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.
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.
At first, my mother, the poet Anne Atik, had seemed just ordinarily confused. Then, very gradually, the confusion took on a pathological aspect. She...