ATLANTA — Aisha Adkins, a constituency organizer at Caring Across Generations and founder of Our Turn 2 Care, lives and breathes caregiving. As a young caregiver, Adkins believes it is important to create and foster a community that supports others who also care for loved ones with serious and chronic illnesses.
“What drives me? Family loyalty, civic duty, social justice and divine purpose. Those are pillars that hold me up and guide the decisions I make,” she said.
Adkins became a full-time caregiver for her mother in 2013, after she was diagnosed with Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), a form of dementia that affects adults between 45 to 65 years of age.
“Because of the symptoms she was experiencing, I knew it was no longer safe for her to be left alone. I felt it was essential for me to step out of my full-time career role and into the role of caregiver.”
Immediately, Adkins began researching information regarding FTD and caregiving. However, she encountered barriers. The existing material treatments and solutions were inaccessible due to cost, and the language of Medicare and disability insurance was unfamiliar and overwhelming.
Additionally, many of the support groups were tailored toward older adults caring for spouses or senior family members.
This illuminated a gap that needed to be filled. So, in 2017, Adkins bridged the barriers by compiling an extensive resource library and founding Our Turn 2 Care, through which she strives to “connect marginalized millennials to information, resources and each other.”
A year later, while browsing Facebook, an advertisement for the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies caught Adkins’ attention and led her to apply. After beginning in a certificate program part-time, Adkins enrolled in the master of public administration program.
“I wanted to make a bigger impact,” Adkins said, “but I knew that I needed to be educated in this space. One thing that drew me to the school was the flexibility. Most classes took place after 4 p.m., and that worked with what I needed in my role as a caregiver for my family.”
While in the program, Adkins served on the executive board of Georgia State University’s chapter of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance and co-authored a research paper, “Promoting dementia awareness in African‐American faith communities.”
The research still resonates with Adkins. Its lessons linger throughout her current work emphasizing inclusivity and resource sharing.
“The human experience is not a monolith – all variations are valid and important,” she said. “These differences must be acknowledged, respected and incorporated into the research process if it is to be truly person-centered. This applies to Black communities of faith, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and other groups who have been marginalized throughout history.”
On March 1 this year, Our Turn 2 Care merged with the Love Labor Project. Rachel Austin Bernstein, founder of the Love Labor Project and a caregiver for 18 years, formed the organization while serving as the primary caregiver for her mother, who recently died from ovarian cancer-related complications. Together, Bernstein and Adkins will provide programming for young caregivers (aged 20 to 40 years old) that will assist them in finding support groups, social connections and educational opportunities.
Adkins contributes her enhanced caregiving knowledge and her current role in nonprofit policy advocacy to her serendipitous time at the Andrew Young School.
“People are at the Andrew Young School because they are passionate about something,” she said. “Being around people who are so fired up about effecting positive change in the world is so motivating.”
Story by Victoria Bowden, M.P.P. Candidate