Informal caregivers during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic: profiles, perceptions and preventive measures

Levati, Sara and Corna, Laurie (2021) Informal caregivers during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic: profiles, perceptions and preventive measures. In: 2nd International CHNW Conference 2021, 29-30 aprile 2021, online.

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Background: The provision of informal care is a central component of the social care system in Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton of southern Switzerland. Despite the availability of some data at the national level, we know relatively little about these caregivers, including whether and how their profiles differ from those of non-carers in the population. This knowledge is fundamental to supporting informal caregivers, particularly in light of the challenges posed by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Research question / aim: This paper assesses differences between informal caregivers and non-caregivers in terms of socio demographic and economic characteristics, risk perceptions associated with Covid-19 preventive behaviors adopted, and health profile. Method / procedure: We use data from Corona Immunitas Ticino, a prospective, population-based sample of the adult (20-64 yrs) population resident in canton Ticino. Baseline data was collected between July and November 2020. Using bivariate models we evaluate differences between informal caregivers and non-carers. Results: A total of 1,066 adults completed the baseline survey and 79 (7.5%) identify as informal caregivers who provide regular unpaid assistance, supervision or accompaniment to an individual in need. The vast majority care for only one individual, most commonly a parent or mother/father in-law (61%), partner (13%) or child (14%). Caregivers are more likely to be women, older than 40 years, declare being retired or unemployed and more likely to report difficulties making ends meet. In terms of their health, caregivers are more likely to assess their health as ‘fair’ and report symptoms of anxiety, but are not more likely to experience symptoms of depression. Compared to non-carers, concerns about becoming ill with Covid-19, or passing along the virus are elevated. Finally, caregivers have a slightly higher likelihood of strict compliance with preventive measures relative to their non-caregiver counterparts. Discussion: A profile of informal caregivers during the pandemic, although descriptive, provides crucial insight into understanding the needs and necessary supports for this often hidden group. Public health campaigns regarding the adoption of preventive measures appear to be well-received by this group, but a better understanding of what supports can be put in place to alleviate worry and anxiety in this group requires further attention. Conclusion: The differences between informal caregivers and non-carers identified so far suggest that caregivers may be more strongly impacted by the pandemic in some specific domains (e.g., mental health). The collection of similar data at the national level is planned in the coming months. This will facilitate acquiring a national perspective and identifying canton-specific needs, and therefore potential measures that would help us protect this central component of the social care system.

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