EMD Serono‘s Embracing Carers initiative unveils the results of a new study exploring the impact of COVID-19 on the caregiver community in the United States.

Its reportedly first ever Carer Well-Being Index, launched during National Family Caregivers Month, surveyed 750 Americans across various demographics who are providing unpaid care for a loved one with a long-term illness, physical disability, or cognitive/mental condition to learn how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their physical, emotional, and financial health.

Increased Demands on Caregivers

Overall, the study suggests that COVID-19 has increased the demands and pressures on unpaid caregivers, including increasing the time and percentage of Americans who have responsibilities caring for loved ones with health conditions.

he average time Americans spend caregiving has grown 7.4 hours per week since the pandemic began in the US and shows no sign of letting up; nearly a third (30%) of American caregivers believe they’ll spend 41 or more hours per week caregiving in the future due to the impact of the pandemic. This is likely due in part to the growth of caregiver distrust in assisted living, retirement communities and nursing homes, with nearly three quarters (72%) of respondents expressing concern that they will need to spend more time caregiving in the future because COVID-19 has made them distrust these institutions.

These challenges have economic impacts and are likely even more significant among those caregivers who must balance workplace responsibilities and as a result, fear job security. The study suggests that the majority (67%) of caregivers are concerned they will have to work full time remotely while also caregiving for the foreseeable future. More than half of caregivers (56%) are also concerned they will lose their job because of the time commitments needed to be a caregiver, a media release from EMD Serono explains.

“Caregivers are a critical element of healthcare systems around the world, and as the results of our Carer Well-Being Index study have shown, they remain an underappreciated resource in times of COVID-19.

“Our company remains deeply committed to supporting caregivers. This survey further contributes to our ongoing efforts to make caregiver support visible and recognized as a global health priority.”

— Heather Connor, Head of Global Communications, Healthcare at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Disproportional Impact on Females and Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on caregivers has been particularly stark for women and ethnic/racial minorities. More support is needed for these groups in particular to address these inequities.

  • Notably, female caregivers are more likely than men to spend an average of 41+ hours per week on caregiving.
  • And the study found that women and racial/ethnic minority groups are being penalized with less financial resources to provide the proper care that is needed; in fact, of those whose financial health has worsened during the pandemic, racial/ethnic minority caregivers (28%) are more likely than white caregivers (14%) to have had their salaries reduced.

“The Embracing Carers report tells a critical story — that caregivers need more attention so that they can protect the people most at risk from COVID-19 and those who care for them.

“Notably, the research found that the women in our lives shoulder more care burden and aren’t being heard. These are our mothers, sisters, aunts, and others who need our help. The research also makes clear that it’s not enough just to talk about racial justice — we need to strengthen infrastructure for communities of color, where caregivers in racial or ethnic minorities face a greater risk from COVID-19 and less access to caregiving supports.”

— C. Grace Whiting, JD, President/CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving

Increased Emotional Burden on Caregivers

Across the board, survey findings suggest the added pressure and emotional burden on caregivers during these unprecedented times. And while there are rewarding elements to caregiving, it comes at a cost — and it’s often on the caregivers’ well-being, which includes physical, mental, financial and social outcomes.

  • While caregivers have long sacrificed their own time and energy to care for loved ones, nearly three-quarters of caregivers agree that caring for someone during the pandemic has caused them to feel more burnt out than ever before (72%), which jumps to 80% among Gen Z adults and Millennials.
  • The pandemic has had a negative impact on many caregivers’ mental and physical health, according to 68% and 44% of caregivers, respectively. One of the top reasons why caregivers feel their mental health has worsened is due to physical distancing/sequestering orders causing them to feel isolated and alone.

Further to its results, the Carer Well-Being Index examines the ways that the public and private sectors can better support unpaid caregivers in the short and long-term, while highlighting the areas in which more support is needed across different sectors including government, private sector, public sector and employers.

“Ultimately, practical steps for immediate and long-term relief is key.

“We need more training, resources and financial support across the public and private sector. Together, we need to do more to ensure that caregivers have the resources and information they need to improve their quality of life.”

— Lisa Winstel, Chief Operating Officer, Caregiver Action Network

The US survey results are part of a 12-country survey examining the impact of COVID-19 on unpaid caregivers around the world that will be launched in January 2021. The 12 countries surveyed include Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, United States, India, Italy, Spain, Taiwan and the United Kingdom, per the release.

[Source(s): EMD Serono, PR Newswire]

Related Content:
Global Initiative Launches to Recognize the Needs of Unpaid Caregivers
Lifting Tips for Home Caregivers from AAOS
Caregivers Need Support, Too