"Caring for One's Own": Variation in the Lived Experience of African-American Caregivers of Elders

Michael J. Sheridan, Jeronda Burley, Danetta E. Hendricks, Theda Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study provides in-depth, descriptive data on the caregiving context and indicators of caregiving stress, rewards, and resources reported by 300 African-American family caregivers of elders residing in the community. Findings revealed generally high levels of caregiving intensity in terms of types of assistance given and hours of caregiving provided. On average, participants reported moderate levels of time-dependence, developmental, and financial burden, but relatively low levels of social and physical burden and emotional and relationship distress. Caregivers also reported high levels of caregiving rewards, including meaning, purpose, and connection/attachment to the care recipient. In terms of resources, both informal and formal levels of support were generally low, while religion/spirituality emerged as an important resource for the majority of the sample. Finally, findings show higher levels of approach versus avoidant coping strategies. Although some commonalities among participants were noted in these areas, close examination of the dispersion of scores in all areas reveals a multifaceted and diverse picture of the caregiving experience, suggesting caution against oversimplification or reliance on general assumptions when providing services to African-American caregivers. This article concludes with four key implications for effective and culturally sensitive social work practice with this heterogeneous population and notes directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • African-American
  • caregivers
  • elderly
  • resources
  • rewards
  • stressors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Education


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