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COVID-19 and Long-Term Care: the Essential Role of Family Caregivers

Background: Those most at risk from severe COVID-19 infection are older adults; therefore, long-term care (LTC) facilities closed their doors to visitors and family caregivers (FCGs) during the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The most common chronic health condition among LTC residents is dementia, and persons living with dementia (PLWD) rely on FCGs to maintain their care provision. This study aims to evaluate the impact of visitor restrictions and resulting loss of FCGs providing in-person care to PLWD in LTC during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Method: An online survey and follow-up focus groups were conducted June to September 2020 (n=70). Mixed quantitative (descriptive statistics) and qualitative (thematic analysis) methods were used to evaluate study data. Results: FCGs were unable to provide in-person care and while alternative communication methods were offered, they were not always effective. FCGs experienced negative outcomes including social isolation (66%), strain (63%), and reduced quality of life (57%). PLWD showed an increase in responsive behaviours (51%) and dementia progression. Consequently, 85% of FCGs indicated they are willing to undergo specialized training to maintain access to their PLWD. Conclusion: FCGs need continuous access to PLWD they care for in LTC to continue providing essential care.

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Journal article
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Canadian Geriatrics Journal
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