Informal home care providers: the forgotten health-care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

3 June 2020

The home environment is a complex context for the care of sick and vulnerable people. A recent commentary in the Lancet, co-authored by a social scientist in the RECOVER consortium, draws attention to the challenges faced by those providing care in the home.

In public health emergencies, informal home care providers play a crucially important role in providing care , expending the capacity of  community’s health-care, especially in regions with an ageing population and areas with suboptimal health-care systems. Despite this, our knowledge of who these care providers are and the challenges they face, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic is limited.

Findings from a cross-sectional population-based survey in an urban setting of Hong Kong affected by the early phase of COVID-19 suggest that a sizeable proportion (nearly 25%) of the general population took up informal home care responsibilities during this period. Given that over half of these individuals were economically active, many informal home care providers bear a double burden of working and being the primary care provider. During the pandemic, a proportion of these informal home care providers reported having inadequate knowledge about the health-care duties required and increased psychological stress. Further research is needed to direct policy, guidelines, resources, clinical support, quality assurance, and monitoring and outcome evaluation for informal caregivers.

In Europe, as part of a larger study on household transmission [hyperlink to WP6], RECOVER is conducting interviews with household members to better understand their experience of living with and providing care to someone with confirmed COVID-19. The outcome of this study will inform recommendations to provide support and care for this important workforce.  

Read article here.

Authors: Emily Ying Yang Chan, Nina Gobat, Jean H Kim, Elizabeth A Newnham, Zhe Huang, Heidi Hung, Caroline Dubois, Kevin Kei Ching Hung, Eliza Lai Yi Wong, Samuel Yeung Shan Wong

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