Equitable access to care, services and supports for older adults and their caregivers has always been one of the main pillars of The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC), founded in 2010, which comprises six member organizations representing African American/Black, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Southeast Asian American, Hispanic/Latinx and LGBT+ communities. The DEC’s partnership with the American Society on Aging (ASA) reflects a shared commitment across the Coalition, the ASA membership and the broader ASA community to champion all elders as they age.
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a powerful reminder that some elders are particularly vulnerable, marginalized and in danger of being left behind—BIPOC and LGBT+ elders were at the epicenter of the pandemic, and continue to suffer disproportionately. The fact is that older adults and caregivers from diverse communities have always been particularly vulnerable; but during the pandemic, these vulnerabilities among diverse communities have become more pronounced and much more visible.
For example, the lack of translated COVID-19 information made available to limited English proficient older adults and caregivers led to confusion and misinformation in many diverse communities. Years of discrimination, neglect and disregard deterred many diverse older adults and caregivers from getting medical assistance during a time when they needed it the most. At the end of the day, numerous equity disparities left unaddressed over many years led to severely disproportionate rates of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths among diverse communities, with black and brown people dying at rates two to three times those of the population in general.
As we emerge from the pandemic, all of us who focus on improving the quality of life for older adults must heighten our commitment to eliminating these disparities and addressing the acute, particular needs of diverse elders. Fortunately, we now have an exciting resource that was specifically created to help address the challenges of diverse communities as they age.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we must heighten our commitment to eliminating disparities and addressing the acute, particular needs of diverse elders.
The Diverse Elder Coalition’s new toolkit—Caring for Those Who Care, Resources for Providers: Meeting the Needs of Diverse Family Caregivers—was put together to help professional and voluntary caregivers, providers and a wide array of professionals better understand the unique realities and challenges diverse caregivers face and best practices they can employ to better care for diverse family caregivers, and ultimately, the older adults they care for. This toolkit, made even more relevant by what we learned during the pandemic, represents the culmination of DEC-sponsored original research, the expertise of the Coalition’s six member organizations and feedback from physicians, researchers, social service providers and aging-focused organizations across the United States. Concentrating on the multiple communities of identity and culture represented by the DEC, the toolkit offers community-specific fact sheets, caregiving and COVID-19 specific resources for healthcare providers, social services providers and aging-focused organizations.
The six fact sheets in the toolkit focus on African American/Black, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Southeast Asian American, Hispanic/Latinx and LGBT+ caregivers. The fact sheets were developed by synthesizing data from the DEC’s original research, which included in-language focus groups and a national caregiving survey with more than 1,000 respondents from full swath of DEC communities.
Additionally, the expertise of the DEC’s six member organizations, physicians, researchers, social service providers and aging-focused organizations across the country contributed to developing these fact sheets. It is our hope that the fact sheets provide much greater knowledge and understanding of diverse caregivers so that healthcare providers, social service providers and aging-focused organizations are better equipped to address their unique challenges. Along with fact sheets, the toolkit also offers national caregiving and COVID-19–specific resources for diverse caregivers.
We encourage providers to share and disseminate the caregiving resources outlined in the toolkit among diverse constituents in the communities they serve. Similarly, social services providers and aging-focused organizations should share these resources with constituents as they were tailored to resolve health, financial, cultural and linguistic barriers that may burden diverse caregivers. The toolkit is interdisciplinary as it was developed with key input from professionals across a multitude of sectors relevant to the aging experiences of diverse older adults.
Most importantly, the toolkit is informed by the voices and perspectives of diverse elders themselves, as well as their caregivers, with their insights and wisdom woven throughout.
Now more than ever we need to make decisive changes to better respond to the realities and needs of diverse older adults and caregivers. The Diverse Elders Coalition’s new toolkit, which can be found in our Caregiving Resources Hub, is a vital resource to support those changes. Please take full advantage of these important new materials and be part of the change in your community!
Michael Adams is the CEO of SAGE in New York City and chairs ASA's Board of Directors. Ocean Le is senior program coordinator of the DEC, also in New York City.