Caregiving during COVID: Stay connected with friends and family

"In the almost two years of the pandemic, we have heard about the needs of many types of caregivers-parents, health care providers, and teachers." - Dr. Trivedi

In the almost two years of the pandemic, we have heard about the needs of many types of caregivers-parents, health care providers, and teachers. For most of the pandemic, we have had limited data on the unique damage that the pandemic has caused for caregivers.

We have both seen and experienced the challenges of caregiving during the pandemic. Shelter-in-place recommendations have kept caregivers from visiting with their loved ones in nursing homes or other residential facilities. Caregivers who relied on home health services faced the difficult choice of risking exposure to COVID by continuing the help, or provide care without the help of an aide. Cancer caregivers have been unable to accompany their loved ones to appointments, infusions, and therapy, and were unable to say goodbye in person at the end of their lives. While we heard many stories, it is only now that we are starting to see data that spotlights the especially vulnerable status of caregivers.

A report published by CDC showed that 3 in 10 (32.9%) caregivers reported higher use of substances such as alcohol and drugs during the pandemic, compared to <1 in 10 for those who were not caregivers (6.3%). Equally distressing, 3 in 10 (30.7%) had thought of suicide in the prior 30 days, compared to <1 out of 10 (3.6%) among non-caregivers. Across three measurement periods, caregivers were three times more likely to have an adverse mental health condition like anxiety and depression compared with non-caregivers. Other reports in the US and globally have echoed these mental health issues.

If you think you as caregivers have experienced additional challenges during the pandemic, turns out you are not alone. You may be wondering, what can I do to take care of myself? Caregivers often are told to do self-care, but the reality is that time and financial resources have always been constraining for caregivers and the pandemic has made these more difficult for many. An important priority is to not withdraw from social connections, even when you have to physically distance from others. Staying connected with your wider network of family and friends via phone, video chat, text and so on can maintain relationships and offset feelings of isolation and being overwhelmed. We know that maintaining these connections have been challenging during the pandemic; however, we have also seen that people are reconnecting more with those they had lost touch with. Maybe that is something you can do, too.

Wishing you all the best as you navigate the triple challenge of cancer, caregiving, and COVID,