An often invisible workforce, caregivers play an important role in our healthcare system. About one in six Americans help loved ones manage medical conditions and assist with daily tasks like cooking and getting dressed. In addition to those who offer caregiver support on a regular basis, many Americans were thrust into caregiver roles as a result of COVID-19. According to the 2020 ARCHANGELS National Caregiver survey, approximately 61 percent of Americans now say they are worrying about, taking care of or looking out for a friend, neighbor or family member.
Unfortunately, the stress associated with this role can lead to negative health impacts. A recent Health of America report published by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association found that caregivers have 26% poorer health compared to a benchmark population, with more pronounced health consequences for millennials than for Gen X and baby boomers. These effects are also larger for caregivers from Black and Hispanic communities than those from white communities.
Not surprisingly, the report found that the pandemic has increased the demand and intensity of caregiving, resulting in increased self-reported stress, isolation and loneliness among caregivers. This stress also leads to other physical and behavioral health conditions, such as tobacco use disorder, which is 42% more prevalent in caregivers, and hypertension, which is 64% more prevalent. When survey participants were asked how they were coping with their added stress and anxiety, 50 percent reported they were eating more, while 14 percent said they were using alcohol as a coping mechanism.
It’s important that caregivers are also caring for themselves. Anthem is committed to providing solutions that address their unique needs, including education, transportation, care coordination and care management. During these unprecedented times, we have offered more resources to caregivers to help them navigate their new challenges. For instance, to help ease the added stress of caregivers whose loved ones are no longer able to attend day programs, we are providing home delivered meals. And for unpaid caregivers, we are helping them determine if their loved one is eligible for programs that would provide caregiving compensation.
Anthem is working with the startup ianacare to roll out a new app that’s designed to help eliminate the burden of asking for assistance. The app enables caregivers to mobilize personal social circles of friends, family, coworkers and neighbors who can respond to a broad range of requests—from help cooking a meal, to providing a ride to a doctor’s appointment, to giving a caregiver much needed rest. Caregivers can invite people to be on their team and then put out specific requests for help.
We want to make it easy for caregivers to understand all of the resources they are eligible for and have access to, and ensure we’re looking out for their overall health and well-being too. Before using the tool, Anthem associates participating in an ianacare pilot shared they were feeling overwhelmed by their caregiving responsibilities, were less productive at work and more stressed. After using ianacare for six to eight weeks, these associates reported feeling less overwhelmed and more supported, all while missing fewer days of work.
Anthem recognizes its opportunity to design solutions that make it easier for caregivers to navigate available resources and feel more supported throughout their journey. Providing personalized caregiver support during the pandemic and beyond is one way we are working to make healthcare simpler and more accessible for those who need it most.