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Elder disability as an explanation for racial differences in informal home care

Publication Abstract

Li, Lydia W., and Brant E. Fries. 2005. "Elder disability as an explanation for racial differences in informal home care." Gerontologist, 45(2): 206-215.

Purpose: Adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and disability levels, this study examines whether differences exist in the structure and function of community-dwelling Black and White frail elders' informal care networks. Design and Methods: Data from in-person assessments of Michigan's Home and Community-Based Medicaid Waiver applicants were analyzed by using logistic and ordinary least squares regression. The sample consisted of 936 Black and 3,182 White frail elderly persons. Results: When sociodemographic characteristics were controlled for, racial differences were found in all informal care components except out-of-home chores. Differences in functional components (amount of care, scope of assistance, and personal care) were largely accounted for by disability, whereas racial differences in the structural components (source of care, living arrangement, and sole caregiver) and in-home chores were not. Implications: Findings suggest that Blacks are not better off than Whites in the receipt of informal care. Although Black elders receive more informal help, this difference is primarily because Blacks are more disabled. This study calls for heightened awareness of disability among low-income Blacks and the potential burden experienced by their caregivers.

Country of focus: United States of America.

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