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Black and white caregivers of rural patients with dementia have different characteristics and coping styles

Rural Alabama caregivers of patients with dementia are typically women from their early 20s to early 80s, who provide an average of nearly 50 hours of care per week. Many of these caregivers also work outside the home, and one-fifth of them also care for a second person in the family (for example, a young child or another elderly person) an average of 31 hours a week. Yet the average caregiver rated their caregiver burden as moderate, and most of them rated their quality of life as average or high, according to a pilot study. Nearly all of them used religion as a coping mechanism. However, white and black caregivers had significantly different characteristics and coping styles, according to the survey conducted by Jordan I. Kosberg, Ph.D., A.C.S.W., and colleagues from the University of Alabama.

Compared with black caregivers, white caregivers were more likely to be married, older, have higher incomes, and have fewer problems paying bills. White caregivers were also more likely to care for parents, while black caregivers were more likely to care for family members other than parents or parents-in-law. White caregivers were more likely to engage in private religious activities such as praying, while black caregivers were more likely to participate in organized religious activities. White caregivers used more medications and used acceptance and humor to cope more often than black caregivers. White caregivers perceived those they were caring for to be more depressed and have more memory problems than their black counterparts, and they felt generally more burdened by caregiving.

Although both groups had similar social support scores, their use of formal care support services was low, although it was not clear whether this was due to lack of available services, inability to use resources (for example, transportation difficulties), or lack of desire to use formal services.

The study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS13189).

See "Family caregiving to those with dementia in rural Alabama: Racial similarities and differences," by Dr. Kosberg, Allan V. Kaufman, Ph.D., Louis D. Burgio, Ph.D., and others, in the February 2007 Journal of Aging and Health 19, pp. 3-21.

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