Credit: (source: caregivers.california.org)

Drew Nate | The IE Voice

On January 13, the California Department of Aging, St. Paul’s AME Church-San Bernardino, Ethnic Media Services (EMS) and Black Voice News hosted a community conversation around elder care, vaccines, COVID-19  and the Omicron Variant. 

This discussion was part of an initiative by the California Department of Aging and EMS to support civic engagement efforts by ethnic news outlets aimed at uplifting community voices and deepening knowledge about the pandemic’s impact on elders and the importance of vaccines.

Cheryl Brown who is Chair of the Social Action Committee of St. Paul’s AME Baptist Church-San Bernardino, a former CA State Assemblymember, Commissioner with California State Commision on Aging, and herself a long-time family caregiver, facilitated the community conversation (Image source: ethnicmediaservices.org).

Speakers sharing in the community conversation included Dr. Donna Benton, director of the USC Family Caregiver Support Center; two longtime family caregivers, Ruth Rembert and the Rev. Noella Buchannan; and Kennedy King, who was the winner of the rap for vaccine contest organized by St. Paul’s AME Church-San Bernardino. 

The discussion was facilitated by Cheryl Brown, Social Action Committee of St. Paul’s First AME Baptist Church-San Bernardino and former California State Assemblymember for the 47th District.

The hour-long virtual conversation revolved around how caregivers can take care of the older generation while also staying safe amidst the Omicron variant. During the early stages of the pandemic, caregivers were somewhat overlooked in terms of priority for both vaccines and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

Today, with 4.5 million caregivers in the field across the state of California many have left the profession due to having to choose between caring for an aging loved one or their career. One of the main issues discussed during the community conversation was the limited accessibility family caregivers have to COVID-19  booster shots as well as the challenge of getting individuals to booster locations.

Dr. Donna Benton PhD,, is a Research Associate Professor of Gerontology at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, Director of the USC Family Caregiver Support Center and the Los Angeles Caregiver Resource Center, member of CA Master Plan for Aging Stakeholder Advisory Commission, and the CA Commission on Aging; Kennedy King, is the first place winner of a rap contest promoting vaccines; Ruth Rembret, is a caregiver for her husband; Rev. Noella Buchanan, Caregiver Coordinator for the Southern California Conference AMEC Ministerial Alliance and a retired pastor;(Image source: ethnicmediaservices.org).

In recent weeks COVID-19 test kits have flown off drug store shelves due to limited supply and resellers like Amazon, CVS Health and Walgreens have even begun limiting the number of at-home COVID-19 kits customers can purchase. Recently, Walmart even raised prices for some of its rapid tests from $14 to $20 for two. Such limited accessibility to at-home testing kits has presented a challenge for family caregivers.

Many family caregivers have struggled during the pandemic getting the older individuals to testing locations and vaccination clinics as some deal with Dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Dr. Donna Benton, director of the USC Family Caregiver Support Center said during the discussion, “For caregivers it’s sometimes difficult if you’re caring for somebody who’s more homebound.” This presents a challenge for those with the inability to leave their homes.”

Another challenge is making sure we are all protected so we can stop the spread of COVID-19, which means young people who may not experience the same severity of the disease when infected, are mindful that they can infect others. As a community based organization, St. Paul’s has worked with the Department of Aging as they have been encouraging the younger generation to get vaccinated. The church recently hosted a contest for the best rap promoting vaccines.

Kennedy King, who wrote a rap for the competition won first place in St. Paul’s contest, and performed it during the community discussion. King talked about why she believes messaging through music is the most effective way to reach people, especially young adults, who have the lowest vaccination rates.

Kennedy King talked about why she believes messaging through music is the most effective way to reach people, especially young adults, who have the lowest vaccination rates.(Source: Drew Nate).

On Tuesday in an effort to lower COVID-19 numbers, the Biden administration launched its website for Americans to request free at-home COVID-19 tests, through the website, COVIDTests.gov, where there is a link for “every home in the U.S.” to access an order form run by the U.S. Postal Service. People can order four at-home tests per residential address, to be delivered by the Postal Service.

For caregivers in California, there are statewide Caregiver Resource Centers. To find your local center visit: www.caregivercalifornia.org. These centers provide individualized comprehensive services for unpaid family caregivers (and friends) so you can find training, education, case management, support groups and more. There are no fees or income requirements.Follow this link to view the community conversation and learn more about support services and other important information about “Caring Across Generations” during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Drew Nate

Drew Nate, a resident of Corona, California, reports for Black Voice News and the IE Voice where he focuses on stories within the Inland Empire and throughout California. An advocate for equity and social justice, he emphasizes civil rights for African Americans. Drew previously served as a staff reporter for The Criterion, a student-run newspaper publication at La Sierra University where he received his bachelor’s degree in Communications. Drew’s areas of interest include international climate change, fashion, and criminal justice reform. Contact Drew with tips, comments, and/or concerns at drew@blackvoicenews.com.