May 18, 2023 - Podcasts

The toll of caregiving on mental health

Around one in five Americans is an unpaid caregiver for loved ones with disability or disease. In a new film, MSNBC and NBC News Anchor Richard Lui examines how his role as a caretaker for his late father affected him and his family.

  • And, President Biden's plan to win back Latino voters.
  • Plus, the new Zelda game smashes records.

Guests: Axios' Sophia Cai and Stephen Totilo, and NBC’s Richard Lui.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Robin Linn and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go Deeper:


Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Thursday, May 18th. I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today on the show: the challenges of caregiving. Plus, the new Zelda game is smashing records.

But first, President Biden’s plan to win back Latino voters. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

Democrats' plans to win back Latino voters

NIALA: Latinos remain the country's youngest and fastest growing demographic, and the next president will need to appeal to these voters, especially Democrats who've been losing ground with Latinos to Republicans. Axios’ Sophia Cai has been reporting on this.

Sophia, of course, when we say the Latino vote, we're talking about a wide range of people, but generally speaking, how important is this group in 2024?

SOPHIA CAI: They are extremely important and they currently make up more than 14% of all U.S. voters, what this means is that every party that wants to be competitive in the next election is going to have to care about Latinos.

NIALA: Sophia, did the midterm elections give us any clue as to whether or not Latino voters are favoring Democrats versus Republicans?

SOPHIA: Yes. So Democrats are still winning a majority of Latino voters. They won about 60%. But Republicans, they have been upping their percentages, every election, about 10 years ago. You know, Democrats, in certain areas, have not been the best at communicating with Latino voters, throughout the year. You know, they may have reached out one or two months before the election cycle. Some more conservative, or moderate, Latino voters they're more in lockstep with Republicans on conservative ideals,

NIALA: What are Democrats doing to try to keep Latino votes within the party?

SOPHIA: So last cycle, they did this with some success, by focusing specifically on swing states where the Latino vote counts for a lot. And so those three states were Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. And these are politically divided states where a strong Latino vote. Can really make the difference between a win or a loss for Democrats. They have also spent a lot of money loss cycle on bilingual ads. I was told, by one Democratic Party official that the DNC plans to spend seven figures on bilingual ads, in different Spanish accents.

So, you know, this is an acknowledgement that the Latino community is not a monolith.

NIALA: The president's team also chose a prominent Latina to lead Biden's reelection campaign. Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the granddaughter of Cesar Chavez. Is this just a symbolic gesture to Latino voters, or is this significant?

SOPHIA: The number of Latinos who have served in such high positions in a presidential campaign, you can count on one hand. So her being, the face of this is very significant. Latino operatives that I've been talking to say that it's not enough to, to just name her. You know, they have to make sure that, in every level of the campaign, in every important state, that there are staffers who represent the communities, um, that they're trying to move.

NIALA: Sophia Kai is part of Axios politics team. Thanks Sophia.

SOPHIA: Thanks.

NIALA: In a moment: caregivers navigate their own mental health.

The challenges of caregiving

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Around one in five Americans are unpaid caregivers for loved ones with disability or disease. In his new film, unconditional, MSNBC and NBC News Anchor, Richard Lui examines his own role as a caretaker for his late father…and how that experience opened his eyes to a community of fellow caregivers navigating similar situations.

Sometimes we forget to stop and check our own physical and mental health, and I know it's taken a toll.

Richard Lui’s here with us now…

So Richard, I think when someone is caregiving, they’re focusing on the person they’re taking care of. When did you start thinking about the effect this was also having on you and the rest of your family?

RICHARD LUI: You know, Niala, it's been seven years we worked on this I was not thinking this is gonna be an introspective about my own mental and physical health and being able to talk about it as honestly as I could. And so that clip that you just played was truly the beginning of me thinking I need to think about am I okay? And it's okay if I'm not okay.

NIALA: And you and I have been friends for a long time and we've shared our experiences caregiving for elderly relatives, especially over the past couple of years. Do you feel like there's a particular aspect of this being Asian American that you wanted to highlight?

RICHARD: you know, we're an AAPI Heritage Month or AANHPI Heritage Month. We're also in, mental Health Awareness Month, and I would say that what I've learned is that there are some differences, community to community, but there are more similarities. When I speak to folks who are Black and Latino, Hispanic, who are from different parts of Asia, uh, who are indigenous, we're all doing the same thing, and we identify with what brought us to get us through it. We just don't see it because most often when we're talking about caregiving and mental health, we think we're alone and we're not.

NIALA: And so for you, when did you realize that, that you weren't alone?

RICHARD: I started to look at the statistics. and when I realized that we had over 50 million in the country, they had over 5 million children, 17 and younger, that are family caregivers, no training, not being paid, and doing some of the most heroic things at home, then I knew we had a cultural gap.

NIALA: So what is your advice for all the caregivers who are listening right to this right now?

RICHARD: If you're a caregiver, I would say first of all, get to the point where you're comfortable saying, I'm a caregiver in the mirror, uh, in the quiet of your own time. Second, uh, reach out and talk to somebody about it. Where you're comfortable. It could be a friend, it could be a hotline. It could be a support group.

Third, I would say try to think of what you're learning and how you can turn that learning into helping not only the person you're caring for but yourself and others. One concern that I would have is, I call it the scream because the moment my mom knew she couldn't do it anymore was she didn't know it. We knew it cuz we had cloud cameras and she was screaming at my father. As he was doing repeat action, so he loved to shower, so he would strip down naked and then run into the into the bathroom and shower like 20 times a day. You know, just a funny, funny, we used to laugh about it all. Oh, there goes a streaker again. And one time she was screaming at him we weren't there and I, I, I heard it through the cloud camera. I was like, hmm that's not only a scream of being mad, she's screaming for help, she's screaming cuz she's sad and she doesn't know what to do. And that's when I said to my siblings like, it's time we have to have the talk with mom. You can do and be what people call unmitigated selflessness and you have to be careful. You want to give everything, and it's a tough line to know where that's at and anything less of it, you think you're not a good person. You're a good person. You have to be careful of that. Don't let the scream happen without hearing it.

NIALA: Richard Louis is the director of Unconditional, which is airing in AMC theaters right now and also on PBS stations. Richard, thank you.

RICHARD: Thank you, Niala.

Zelda smashes records

NIALA: The Nintendo gaming system has another massive hit on its hands with “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.” Axios’ Stephen Totilo is here to put that into context.

STEPHEN TOTILO: They're saying that the game has sold 10 million copies worldwide in its first three days of release. 4 million copies in the Americas, predominantly in the United States. They'd have given out a revenue figure, so it's hard to compare it to other forms of entertainment and even some other games.

We know though 10 million copies and most of those probably sold for $70, which is what the game retail's at. We can roughly estimate about $700 million in revenue way above the opening weekend box office for any movie this year, probably above Taylor Swift Concert sales. So just another sign of how big gaming is as a cultural force and as an industry.

Part of what's interesting about this game is it's kind of made for viral conversation. Zelda games have been around since the eighties when the first one came out on the Nintendo Entertainment System. And these games typically are about you play as the hero link, kind of a young man or a boy who goes around with a sword and a shield and fights monsters and solves puzzles. How do I get over this mountain? How do I get through this dungeon full of traps? The game is all over TikTok and Instagram, Twitter, you name it. It isn't just bigger than any movie that's come out this year or any other form of entertainment. It's also maybe already the biggest game of the year. The current lead game was Hogwarts legacy, which came out from Warner Brothers in February to Harry Potter spinoff. Zelda seems like it's gonna surpass that, and one of the probably defining entertainment releases of the whole year. Just a huge hit all around.

NIALA: That’s Axios’ Gaming Reporter Stephen Totilo

And that’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Niala Boodhoo, thanks for listening, stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

Go deeper