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Supporting Family Caregivers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Heather Tomko, Outreach Coordination, National Center on Family Support

In the best of times, family caregiving is accompanied by both challenges and rewards. But what about during this unprecedented time of the coronavirus pandemic? So little is known about the effects that COVID-19 and the required social distancing will have. The National Center on Family Support at the University of Pittsburgh, funded through the Administration for Community Living and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, is hoping to be able to provide some of these answers.

“Our team is working hard to support families with up-to-date information and resources via our website, webinars, and social media,” said Dr. Heidi Donovan, a co-director of the Center.

In an effort to understand the impact that COVID-19 will have on family caregivers, the Center is conducting a survey of informal family caregivers to evaluate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on financial, social, mental, and physical well-being of these caregivers.

“We want to understand how COVID-19 has affected caregiving duties and the ability to provide quality care,” explained Dr. Scott Beach, one of the co-directors of the Center. “The results of these surveys will provide important information for policy makers and healthcare professionals developing interventions for caregivers to cope with the current pandemic.”

The Center also understands that, in addition to providing information to shape policy and interventions in the future, family caregivers have questions that need to be answered now. Their first webinar, “Family Caregivers and COVID-19,” was designed to provide this guidance. Bringing together experts from UPMC, Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services’ Office of Developmental Programs, and family caregiver advocates, the Center facilitated a conversation about how caregivers can keep themselves, and those they provide care for, safe and healthy. A recorded video of the webinar is available on the Center’s website.

“By providing continually-updated resources for family caregivers and by collecting and sharing important data about how families are being affected, we hope to better understand the extent to which federal and state policies and legislation during the pandemic are addressing the unique needs of family caregivers and those they care for,” stated Donovan.

For more information, visit the National Center on Family Support’s website at www.caregiving.pitt.edu, send an e-mail to caregiving@pitt.edu, or call (412) 759-1356.

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