COVID-19 Hurt Emotional Well-being of Caregivers, Survey Shows

Vanda Pinto, PhD avatar

by Vanda Pinto, PhD |

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According to an online survey, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected the caregivers of patients with Parkinson’s disease, with a large proportion of caregivers reporting feeling sadness and anxiety.

The findings of the study, “COVID-19’s Impact on Burden and Nutrition for Family Caregivers of People With Parkinson’s Disease,” were presented at the Gerontological Society of America’s 2021 annual scientific meeting, held November 10-13, and published as an abstract in the journal Innovation in Aging.

The quarantine and isolation measures during the pandemic have had an impact on the well-being and overall quality of life of people in particular vulnerable groups, such as those with chronic neurologic disorders.

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Why Both Parkinson’s Patients and Caregivers May Grow Impatient

Those with Parkinson’s have seen a worsening of motor and nonmotor symptoms. Confinements due to COVID-19 have led to a decrease in sleep quality and aggravated disease-related symptoms in these patients.

Yet the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on family caregivers of patients with Parkinson’s is unknown. To find out more, researchers at the University of Rhode Island and Rowan University in New Jersey conducted an online survey of caregiver burden and nutrition behaviors during COVID-19.

The survey had 38 open- and closed-ended questions. Open-ended questions allow people to provide a free-form answer while closed-ended questions require yes or no answers or have a pre-established set of answers.

A total of 34 caregivers completed the online survey. Most participants were women (65%), and the mean age was 67 years (age range 47–82). Most respondents (62%) said they felt that their relationship with the patient had stayed the same or had slightly improved since the pandemic’s start.

Many respondents (41%) reported having to make a slight or increased number of adjustments to their schedules “and experienced a slight or increased physical strain because of providing care,” the researchers wrote.

Almost 60% of caregivers reported an increase in the number of times they felt sad or hopeless, and 77% reported an increased number of times they felt anxious or worried.

Researchers identified several themes associated with the impact of COVID-19 on caregivers’ burdens. These included fear, stress, and isolation; increased responsibilities; no change in caregiving.

Themes linked to COVID-19’s effects on eating and food habits were also determined. Dietary behavior-related themes included healthier dietary patterns, an increase in snack foods and boredom eating, and no change in dietary patterns.

“Results suggest COVID-19 has negatively impacted caregiver well-being and further exploration in changes in dietary intake are warranted,” the researchers concluded.

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