Cancer Caregivers Face Mental Health Struggles During COVID-19 Pandemic

Over two-thirds of unpaid caregivers of people living with cancer in the United States report that their emotional and mental health has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 66% reporting that the pandemic has made caregiving harder overall, according to a survey of more than 100 US cancer caregivers.

“Family caregivers are not only a crucial part of the U.S. healthcare system, but the backbone of our society, yet they continue to be under-recognized and under-supported, hampering their ability to care for their loved one as well as maintain their own health and well-being,” said Chris Round, president of EMD Serono, in a press release. “The EMD Serono Embracing Carers® Carer Well-Being Index is one tool to help bring much-needed attention to the role and needs of the caregiver during the pandemic and beyond. We remain steadfast in our commitment to working with the public and private sectors to shape new programs and resources to address the issues raised in this survey.”

According to the researchers, almost half of the caregivers surveyed responded that the people they are caring for rely on them more than ever before, with 94% of respondents indicating that they put the needs of the person they care for above their own during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than one-third of survey participants report feeling as though they have no one to turn to for support, whereas 83% indicated they are themselves relied on for emotional support by the person they care for.

“Even in non-pandemic times, the pressures of caregiving can be far-reaching and negatively impact the financial, physical, and emotional well-being of the entire family, and these data underscore how the pandemic has only increased these pressures, particularly for cancer caregivers,” said Lisa Winstel, chief operating officer of Caregiver Action Network and a member of the Embracing Carers® advisory board in the press release. “As we start to round the corner with COVID-19, it’s critical that we don’t lose sight of the fact that for many caregivers, the responsibilities and accompanying stress will not abate.”

In terms of challenges faced by cancer caregivers, the survey found that general support needs (49%) and financial challenges (36%) are the most common. One-third responded that they have had less opportunity to access support systems and services, and 1 in 5 cite a lack of support from family and friends due to COVID-19 exposure concerns. Nearly all of those surveyed agreed that more support was needed to cope with emotional stress, with 94% responding that more mental/wellness resources need to be readily available.

REFERENCE

New data show dramatic emotional toll of pandemic on unpaid caregivers of people living with cancer, affecting mental health and relationships. News release. Business Wire. November 18, 2021. Accessed November 23, 2021. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20211118005713/en