Family caregivers for patients in hospice or who are suffering from serious illness tend to see declines in their own health. A study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association’s (BCBSA) found that the stress and pressure of caregiving can contribute to conditions such as high blood pressure, depression and anxiety, as well as increase the risk of hospitalizations.
BCBSA researchers used an internal measurement tool, called the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) Health Index to compare caregivers’ health against a benchmark population. The index relies on claims data.
“Caregivers continue to play a vital, often unheralded, role in helping ensure the health of our members, our communities, and our nation as a whole,” said Vincent Nelson, Chief Medical Officer at BCBSA. “This new data only reinforces our shared commitment to ensuring that these caregivers receive the resources, initiatives and support they need to get and stay healthy.”
The BCBSA study sample identified at least 6.7 million commercially insured Blue Cross Blue Shield members who care for a spouse or child. The organization collaborated with the caregivers’ advocacy group ARCHANGELS to conduct the study.
Data from ARCHANGELS indicate that 60% of people in the United States report that they are providing unpaid care for a family member, friend or neighbor due to the pandemic. ARCHANGELS also found that a greater number of black (57%) and Hispanic (64%) caregivers are providing care for loved ones in their home than their white (37%) counterparts.
Caregiving was associated with an 82% rise in hypertension, 60% increase in anxiety, and a 64% upsurge in depression, BCBSA found. Caregiving also correlated with a 74% increase in obesity and a 59% higher risk of hospitalization for the caregiver, coupled with a 33% greater likelihood of an emergency department visit.
“Wherever you are right now, look to your left, look to your right. One of you is a caregiver. Being a caregiver is one of the most important jobs many of us will ever do. It’s also one of the hardest – with profound physical and mental health impacts,” said Alexandra Drane, co-founder and CEO at ARCHANGELS. “So, the first and most important step we all need to take, is to check in on ourselves and our loved ones. Next, we need to continue the discussion on how we can provide caregivers with the resources, support and infrastructure they need to stay healthy.”