Caregivers Face Financial and Mental Burdens, New Survey Shows

Caregivers Face Financial and Mental Burdens, New Survey Shows
Caregivers Face Financial and Mental Burdens, New Survey Shows

Caregivers may be in need of support just as much as those they’re taking care of, new research shows.

About 28% of Americans consider themselves to be caregivers, and 22% are unpaid, according to a new survey from Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS Health and Chicago-based Harris Poll. These caregivers are facing financial and mental health struggles: 47% said that being a caregiver is a financial burden and 49% said their mental health suffers from being a caregiver.

“Caregivers are making significant sacrifices across different areas of their lives to support their loved ones,” said Dr. Jamie Sharp, vice president and Medicare chief medical officer for Aetna, which is part of CVS Health. “If you are or have been a caregiver, you know this to be true, but to see the shared experience in numbers sheds light on the support and resources this group needs.”

The online survey was conducted in December and included responses from 2,031 American adults. CVS Health and Harris Poll have not published the survey, but shared the data with MedCity News.

Adding to the financial burden that caregivers are experiencing, 37% of respondents said they’ve had to quit their job or cut back on work hours due to the responsibilities of caregiving, the survey found. This is especially true for younger caregivers, with 57% of Gen Z/Younger Millennials having to quit or reduce their hours.

Caregivers are also making sacrifices in their personal lives: 45% have spent less time participating in their hobbies, 39% saw their friends less, 34% fell behind on managing their health, 29% rearranged their home to accommodate the person they’re caring for and 28% formed unhealthy lifestyle habits (such as eating poorly or drinking more).

Most caregivers are taking care of children under the age of 18 (40%) or aging parents (35%). Another 21% are caring for a partner or spouse, though this percentage increases to 40% for respondents who are 65 years or older. About 41% of respondents said they never wanted to be a caregiver to begin with.

These findings show that caregivers are in need of support from health plans, Sharp said. Aetna Medicare Advantage has taken some actions to help caregivers of older adults and those living with disabilities, with some plans providing financial assistance for utilities, healthy foods, dentures, eyeglasses, hearing aids and over-the-counter items like hand sanitizer and cold medicine. This can help relieve the financial stress on caregivers.

Aetna also has the Aetna Resources for Living program, which connects members to caring consultants. These consultants can help caregivers find back-up care and support groups to manage stress. In addition, Aetna has a partnership with Papawhich offers companionship services and help with tasks like grocery runs and transportation. Providing assistance with everyday tasks can reduce the mental pressure on caregivers. CVS Health declined to provide information on how many members use these benefits.

“Caregivers are true heroes who selflessly provide critical care for their loved ones,” Sharp said. “They take on a daunting responsibility with love and compassion, often putting their own needs on hold. To help caregivers, we need to acknowledge their incredible efforts and provide them with the support they need to sustain this vital role, while also putting their own health and wellbeing first. We need to do more to ensure caregivers have access to the services and resources they require to alleviate the financial and health burdens that come with caregiving.”

Photo: ipopba, Getty Images

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