The pandemic has undoubtedly had a disproportionate impact on people with dementia, who have faced substantial barriers in accessing their usual care. But what has been the impact on their caretakers, with regards to mental wellbeing, health, and access to support? A group of researchers sought to explore this, by synthesising the results of 36 studies that reported on the early impact of the pandemic on unpaid carers. These studies were conducted across 18 countries, including Greece, Italy, Poland, and the UK, and included quantitative, qualitative, and mixed method approaches. The findings were published in the journal Aging & Mental Health. Findings indicate that, in general, unpaid carers, experienced a reduction in access to care and support during the pandemic. This applied to all forms of support, such as local day centres, memory cafés, support groups, and respite care. Caring responsibilities and time spent on caring also increased, with as much as one-third of carers indicating a severe degree of burden.
Carers saw a strong decline in mental and social wellbeing, reporting more anxiety, stress, depression, social isolation, and loneliness. Digital technology was noted as a way for some carers to stay connected or supported, for instance via online support groups. But digital support is not a panacea – many carers do not see it as equivalent to in-person connection and others might not have access to such technologies in the first place. These findings highlight an important need for better and more targeted support for carers. This is essential for protecting their mental well-being and can also delay the time at which people with dementia enter a care home. The study authors recommend the development of appropriate policy measures to support carers’ wellbeing and investigation into the long-term implications of carer needs. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13607863.2022.2084510