Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Older African Americans' Attitudes and Caregiving: Is There a Connection?

Academic journal article ABNF Journal

Older African Americans' Attitudes and Caregiving: Is There a Connection?

Article excerpt

Abstract: The purpose of this non-experimental descriptive study was to explore the attitudes of older (≥ 50 years old) African Americans toward and their willingness to care for people with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Results from this study suggest that this population has generally tolerant (empathetic) attitudes towards people with AIDS (PWA). Knowing someone with AIDS has a positive correlation with a willingness to care for someone with AIDS. Those individuals who reported a willingness to care for someone with AIDS were more likely to have more tolerant attitudes towards PWA. Recognizing the influence of older African Americans' attitudes towards PWA and their subsequent willingness to care for this population will give direction for further advanced nursing actions and research. Specifically, it will help improve family involvement as a component of the patient's support network.

Key Words : African American, Older African Americans, Attitudes, Caregiving, HIV/AIDS

Since acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was first recognized and reported in 1981, it has affected an ever-increasing number of individuals. Of great concern, is the disproportionate number of African Americans (AA) who are contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Although AA represent only 12% of the nation's population, they accounted for over half of the new HIV/AIDS cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2004). The rate of AIDS diagnoses for AA was almost 10 times the rate for whites (CDC, 2004).

With the advancement of medical care, AIDS has become a chronic illness with a life expectancy that continues to grow (Baker, 1999). At the same time, changes in health care reimbursement and advanced medical technology have resulted in earlier hospital discharges. This has led to a significant number of people with AIDS (PWA) who are forced to cope with complicated medical regimens at home (Smith & Rapkin, 1996), requiring substantial family involvement in their care. Since many PWA are young adults, often with working parents, grandparents have become increasingly involved in taking care of grandchildren who are HIV infected.

Historically in the AA community, grandparents have cared for their grandchildren and this involvement is increasing (Minkler & Fuller-Thomson, 2000; Boyle, Hodnicki, & Ferrell, 1999). AA have a two-fold greater chance than Anglo-Americans of becoming a caregiving grandparent. Factors that influence this role include incarceration, the number of single-parent homes, substance abuse, and economic factors (Baker, 1999; Boyle, Farrell, Hodnicki, & Muller, 1997). This caregiving network is an extension of racial unity, but also has roots in religious faith. Both of these factors combine to create a paradox for the older AA. Caregiving is an AA tradition, deeply rooted in the culture of the AA community and the Christian ideology of caring for one another. Conversely, primary modes of HIV transmission (homosexual behavior, injection drug use, and promiscuous sexual behavior) have a strong negative association with this disease, which are condemned by some religious groups (Herek & Capitanio, 1993; Powell-Cope & Brown, 1992). However, because of the increasing numbers of young AAs diagnosed with AIDS, grandparents and other older relatives will be needed to assist with their care. Attitudes of this older group towards PWA are an important factor in determining the level of social and physical support that young AA will have in coping with AIDS.


While a number of studies have examined the caregiving role of older AAs and the stigma of AIDS in the AA community, few studies have measured the attitudes of older AAs towards PWA; thus, more information is needed about the older African American caregiver.

In a study involving eight AA mothers, age 48-68 who were primary caretakers of their HIV infected adult children, Boyle and others (1999) found that spiritual beliefs were a strong influence on the decision to care for their children. …

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