National Minority Health Month is recognized across the nation every April, and it serves as a reminder to state agencies, health advocates and community leaders that the best way to improve the well-being of our communities is to ensure that every conceivable option is made available to families working to care for an elderly, sick or disabled loved one.
Last month, I gathered several statewide health and advocacy organizations, including AARP and Caregiver Homes of Indiana, together for the first ever Indiana Senior Day at the Statehouse. Many of the attendees came from my east side Indianapolis district and the congregations at Eastern Star and New Beginnings Churches; most had never been to the Statehouse or spoken with elected officials, who make critical decisions about health care funding and outreach programs to minority communities. It is critical for people to come together and use their collective voices to speak out about what’s happening in their lives and with their families, especially when your loved ones can’t do it for themselves.
According to the AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving, in 2013, nearly a million Hoosiers served as a caregiver for an adult with limited abilities. A quarter of those family caregivers said they felt “burdened” by that duty physically, emotionally or financially. Further research by the American Geriatrics Society tells us that minority families more often take on the generational task of family caregiving than Caucasian families and that minority caregivers suffer greater stress from the added work.
That is why we in Indiana must continue to innovate and find solutions for Hoosier families. Five years ago, Caregiver Homes of Indiana became the first company to offer the model of Structured Family Caregiving to Hoosier families. The service provides a full care team, including a registered nurse, to support family caregivers looking after aging and disabled loved ones. The service also pays a stipend to the caregiver. Indiana needs more options like Structured Family Caregiving to address the needs of minority communities, who see negative disparities in life expectancy, infant mortality, and maternity health.
Indiana is home to some of the largest and most influential companies in health care. We can do more for the health of Hoosiers, but we need the advocacy and the political will to see them through.
State Rep. Robin Shackleford represents District 98 and is ranking minority member of the Public Health Committee.