Pandemic Adding to the Physical, Financial Stress Facing Many Black Caregivers

February 14, 2021
MHE Staff

A survey conducted by Nationwide Retirement Institute® highlights the challenges Black caregivers overcome during COVID-19.

While the risk of COVID-19 poses the greatest threat to the elderly, it's also taking a toll on the people they rely on most: their caregivers. This is particularly true in the Black community, where the pandemic presents new sources of stress, both physically and financially.

A new Nationwide Retirement Institute® survey of 313 Black caregivers commissioned in September 2020 reveals the toll the pandemic has taken on those providing care.
According to the survey, many current caregivers are worried they can't protect their loved one from getting sick (67%) and among all caregivers, more than half feel that they can't take a day off (54%).

As Black caregivers struggle to balance work and caregiving, many also have concerns about their financial security, with only 58% answering that they are prepared financially for current or potential caregiving responsibilities (vs. 67% of all caregivers).

Among all U.S. adults, there is a surprising gap in financial literacy regarding the cost associated with being a caregiver, the report says. Only about half of Millennials (51%) and Gen Xers (46%) and only about a third of Boomers+ (35%) are knowledgeable about how much it costs to be a caregiver.

For Black caregivers, these costs average more than $5,000 a year and are an unwelcome sacrifice. More than 8 in 10 Black caregivers (83%) believe they should be able to provide care without dipping into their savings. Despite this, some may find themselves in this position, as around a third are worried they'll be unable to provide money they had planned for their children (33%) or unable to retire one day (30%) because of caregiving expenses.

"The pandemic has disproportionately impacted the Black community greater than other populations," said Kristi Rodriguez, senior vice president of the Nationwide Retirement Institute. "Many Black caregivers are struggling to balance work while providing care or have experienced a financial hit due to COVID-19. Despite these obstacles, they continue to provide care for their loved ones every day."

Fighting through the storm

Many current Black caregivers feel the pandemic has prevented them from providing the care they once did (49%) and has made it nearly impossible to complete their caregiving duties (44%). In addition, half (49%) say the pandemic has impacted their financial ability to provide care. What's more, two-thirds of current Black caregivers are avoiding everyone so they can stay healthy and keep caregiving (67%) and 57% feel they can't afford to get sick because no one else can provide care for their loved one.

"Caregiving can be financially, emotionally and physically exhausting, but it also is a rewarding experience that changes you as a person," said Rodriguez. "The challenges of caregiving are exacerbated by the pandemic; it is an especially stressful time."

Nearly three-quarters of current Black caregivers (73%) wish they had more help with their caregiving duties because of the increased stress of the pandemic. In fact, one in six (17%) say they have had to look for additional caregiving help because of the pandemic, but two thirds of Black caregivers (67%) would not be comfortable having an at-home care provider, because of the pandemic.

The pandemic has also disrupted the intimacy between caregivers and the loved ones they look after. More than half of current Black caregivers (52%) say they use video calls some or all of the time now to provide virtual caregiving, and nearly six in ten (59%) say social distancing makes their job as a caregiver more difficult.

Fear of not being there

Black caregivers are far more likely to say they chose to take on the role of caregiver (71%) and, if given the choice, most (73%) would choose to be a caregiver all over again. In fact, more than two in three Black caregivers (68%) say their biggest fear is not being able to provide care for their loved one.

As a result of being a caregiver, 49% say they have become closer to the person they care for, 34% report being a caregiver brought meaning and purpose into their life, and 29% say caregiving brought their family closer. In addition, more than two in three (69%) current Black caregivers say their family members are helping them with caregiving now that they are home more.

The dual life of a young Black caregiver

More and more, Millennials and Gen Xers are surpassing Boomers+ as the caregivers in their families, typically caring for an aging parent. For younger generations already struggling with work-life balance, this new role amounts to a second job. In the Black community, the workload can be stressful with caregivers spending an average of 32 hours a week providing care. In addition, Millennial Black caregivers spend $6,832 a year in out-of-pocket expenses on caregiving, and Black Gen Xers spend an average of $5,694.

Younger Black caregivers have the added stress of worrying about how their job could impact their caregiving duties. More than one in three Millennials (35%) and Gen Xers (38%) say they are afraid their responsibilities at work could cause them to have to stop providing care to their loved one, and some (32% Millennials, 42% Gen Xers) are even afraid their caregiving duties could cause them to lose their job.

"The pandemic is really bringing a sense of urgency for many Black Americans – especially younger generations – to focus on things such as financial planning, putting your health first and long-term care planning," said Rodriguez. "One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones is having a plan for when you need caregiving."

Back-up plan for care

Black caregivers who are familiar with long-term care are much more likely than all adults 24+ who are familiar with long-term care to have discussed long-term care with their family (64% vs. 41%) and about two-thirds of Black caregivers (65%) have a back-up plan if they can no longer provide care for their loved one. Most commonly, that plan involves another family member caring for them (50%).

While most Black caregivers say the pandemic has made it more important than ever to have long-term care insurance (92% vs. 81% adults 24+), not nearly as many Americans have long-term care insurance in place (8%*). Only one in 20 (4%) Black Americans say they have talked to a financial professional about long-term care costs.

"Amid today's uncertainty, it is more important than ever to work with a financial professional and use online tools to help plan for the unexpected and make long-term goals a reality," Rodriguez said. "The good news is that nearly half (48%) of all Black caregivers say they are working with a financial professional for the first time as a result of the pandemic."

To simplify this complicated issue and encourage discussions around health care and long-term costs in retirement, Nationwide's Health Care/LTC Cost Assessment tool provides a meaningful, personalized cost estimate that will help financial professionals and clients plan for future medical and long-term care expenses.

To learn more about the 2020 Black Caregivers Survey, visit www.nationwide.com/ltcinsights.