Older caregivers struggling with extra burdens of home care during COVID-19

Ninety-three per cent of older Canadians (age 65+) live in the community, and one in four provides care for family or friends with long-term health conditions or disabilities. Challenging circumstances are not a new phenomenon for these caregivers, but COVID-19 has complicated and amplified their situations.

Older caregivers report struggling with increased levels of responsibility, stress and isolation due to COVID-19 and pandemic-related protocols. A survey conducted by the Ontario Caregiver Organization have found 54 per cent of family caregivers have found it harder to manage their caregiving responsibilities since the pandemic began.

Early in the pandemic, there was some recognition of the potential challenges that family caregivers were likely to face. However, the main focus was on controlling community spread of the virus and on institutional settings such as hospitals and long-term care residences.

Greater burden on caregivers

Long-term care residences, populated almost exclusively by older adults, have experienced immense loss as a result of COVID-19, yet most older adults who depend on care rely on family and friends. Without informal caregivers providing the majority of care in the community, these older adults would no longer be able to reside safely in their homes.

Widespread public health efforts to limit COVID-19 spread have led to drastic reductions or closure of community-based services that were intended to protect and support vulnerable older adults. As a result, caregivers cannot access community supports such as: home care services, day programs, respite services and caregiver support groups. Community-based organizations that frequently offer programs suitable for caregivers and their care recipients have been forced to cancel or severely reduce program offerings.

Read more: After COVID-19’s tragic toll, Canada must improve quality of life in long-term care homes