The Impact of COVID-19 on Informal Caregivers in the US

The Impact of COVID-19 on Informal Caregivers in the US

Stephanie MacLeod, MS1, Rifky Tkatch, PhD1, Sandra Kraemer, MSW2, Annette Fellows, MBA2, Michael McGinn, BS1, James Schaeffer, RPh1, and Charlotte S. Yeh, MD3

1Research for Aging Populations, OptumLabs, 2UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, 3AARP Services, Inc.

Background: Caregiver burden has negative effects on mental and physical health along with quality of life. Meanwhile, social and physical distancing protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic have created additional impacts on informal caregiving in a rapidly changing environment. Early research over the past year suggests that the pandemic has caused increased caregiver burden as well as caregiving intensity among these individuals.

Purpose: Our primary purpose in this informational literature review is to describe the impacts of the pandemic on informal caregiver burden and the sudden shift in roles and responsibilities as a result of pandemic-related changes in caregiving. This review will describe emerging effects on various aspects of health among informal caregivers and explore the growing need to support unpaid caregiving during this time.

Methods: A streamlined search was conducted to fit the scope of this review, with key terms determined to identify relevant publications. Common research databases and up-to-date mainstream resources were utilized. Notably, we focused on research published or released since March 2020, primarily rapidly reviewed studies, to align with the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US.

Results: Early research suggests that the pandemic has worsened caregiver burden and increased caregiving intensity and hours of care among unpaid, informal family caregivers. Reported health impacts include higher stress, pain, and depression, along with decreased social connectedness and quality of life. Notably, however, COVID-related research generally does not focus on the positive aspects of caregiving, such as its role as a source of purpose in life, creating an opportunity to explore ways to boost certain valuable personal resources among caregivers.

Conclusions: Informal family caregivers face their own negative health outcomes and distress as a result of greater caregiver burden, intensity, and the changing landscape of caregiving during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Immediate policy and support recommendations should be considered to alleviate informal caregiver burden and provide ongoing resources over the longer term. In addition, future work should explore the potential of boosting positive resources such as resilience and purpose to ease caregiver burden.

Keywords: Older Adults; Pandemic; COVID-19; Informal Caregivers; Informal Caregiver Burden

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How to cite this article:
Stephanie MacLeod, Rifky Tkatch, Sandra Kraemer, Annette Fellows, Michael McGinn, James Schaeffer, Charlotte S. Yeh. The Impact of COVID-19 on Informal Caregivers in the US. International Journal of Aging Research, 2021, 4:87. DOI: 10.28933/ijoar-2021-07-0705


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