- A majority of the nearly 600 U.S. family caregivers surveyed last month by e-commerce company Carewell, 64%, said that they felt depressed due to the stresses of caregiving. The percentage rose to 68% for those ages 18 to 34 and to 72% for women who cared for parents.
- Though more than half of respondents said caregiving "is their full-time job," 70% of those who continued to work outside the home reported missing work as a result of caregiving, with 22% missing more than 20 work days per year. Gender disparities also exist, Carewell said; 70% of female respondents who worked outside the home reported missing work, while 62% of their male counterparts answered similarly.
- About one-third of respondents had changed their career or job to balance caregiving responsibilities with work, and the need for schedule flexibility was the top reason cited by respondents who made such a switch. However, 86% of respondents said they felt appreciated by their care recipient.
The impact of COVID-19 "has only exacerbated the number of novice family caregivers" in the U.S., Carewell said in a statement accompanying the survey results. In addition to schools and childcare providers nationwide, the pandemic has also affected adults in need of caregiving assistance. More than 90,000 long-term care residents have died as a result of COVID-19, The Associated Press reported Nov. 19.
In recent years, surveys documented the struggles caregivers faced long before the pandemic. In mid-February, WebMD Health Services published a survey that found working mothers with caregiving duties faced isolation, loneliness and stress. In 2017, a Merrill Lynch report found family caregivers in the U.S. spent $190 billion per year on their loved ones and noted that caregiving also can create emotional challenges.
However, the onset of caregiving needs caused by COVID-19 has already had a tangible effect on the career trajectory of caregivers. A survey published in July by Morning Consult for the Bipartisan Policy Center found more than half of surveyed parents who quit their jobs did so due to childcare needs or school closures, and more than one-third of surveyed caregivers who quit did so to look after a sick family member. Moreover, nearly 60% of parents in the same survey who said they weren't looking to return to work said that caregiving duties were an obstacle.
"Caregiving is an act of selflessness and patience, but it comes with immense responsibility and pressure — impacting caregivers' health, finances, and relationships," Bianca Padilla, CEO and co-founder of Carewell, said in the firm's statement. "As a result, our research shows that caregivers are consistently forced to choose between the welfare of their care recipient or their own well-being, oftentimes neglecting themselves."
Caregivers at certain employers with fewer than 500 employees have received federal support in the form of Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provided two buckets of paid leave that can be taken to address certain caregiving needs due to COVID-19. But the law is set to expire at the end of the year, even as COVID-19 cases spike nationwide.
Besides offering more flexible work arrangements that allow caregivers to balance their lives, employers can also offer community support groups for caregivers and partnerships with companies that can help solve caregivers' needs directly. Fidelity Investments, for example, created programming for the children of its employees with a virtual summer camp initiative. Employers may also be able to lean on their healthcare benefits packages, including virtual care, to provide support.