The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted individuals’ physical, psychological, and emotional well-being. Most older persons living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias rely on family for support and care in late life and dementia caregivers may face more challenges than other caregivers. However, few studies have examined the care experience of dementia caregivers and the effect on dementia caregivers’ well-being during the COVID 19 pandemic. The purpose of the current study is to investigate the impact of COVID 19 on care stress and the quality of life of caregivers (CGs) of people with dementia compared to CGs for people without dementia.
The current study used National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS)’s COVID 19 Family Members and Friends data (N=1,978). T-tests were conducted to explore the differences in stressors (changes in help with ADL, IADL, emotional support, help with technology, help with medical care) between dementia caregivers and non-dementia caregivers. We used the OLS regression to investigate the stressors associated with a negative feeling, positive mood, and self-reported health, controlling for background factors (age, gender, education) and relationship quality with care recipient. The changes in help with ADL and IADL before and after/during COVID-19 were measured by absolute differences and categorical differences.
The mean CG age was 64 years old (range 18-82). More than four-fifths of the sample (81%) identified as White. Dementia CGs report significantly more provision of help with IADL and emotional support to their care recipients compared to non-dementia CGs. Surprisingly, OLS analyses revealed that dementia CGs were more likely to report greater positive mood and lower negative feelings compared to non-dementia CGs. Among dementia CGs, relationship quality was a significant factor for CGs' negative feelings, positive mood, and self-reported health.
Overall, the current study highlights differences and similarities in care stress between dementia CGs and non-dementia CGs during the Covid -19 pandemic. The findings of this study suggest that despite more challenges with dementia care during the COVID-19, dementia CGs may have developed strategies and resilience to cope with care stress which may impact the better quality of life compared to non-dementia CGs. Future studies should continue to consider a moderating model, including CGs’ relationship quality and type, to examine dementia CGs who are at risk for poor health and well-being.