Number of the day: the rise of caregivers during COVID-19

55: Percentage of caregivers who did not identify as such prior to the pandemic.

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COVID-19 is accelerating the caregiving crisis by thrusting more Americans into caregiving roles, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. More than half of employees who say they’re now caregivers didn’t identify themselves as such before the coronavirus pandemic.

What it means for HR leaders

The BCBSA data is the latest to find how much the pandemic is driving responsibility and the number of caregivers in the nation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, including the millions of caregivers who provide care to friends, neighbors and loved ones across the country,” says Dr. Vincent Nelson, BCBSA’s vice president of medical affairs and interim chief medical officer. In particular, the pandemic has increased the intensity and stress placed on unpaid caregivers, who already are at risk of a 26% decline in health compared to their peers, he says.

Related: How COVID-19 is aggravating the caregiving crisis

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The increasing number of caregivers has a big impact on employers, too: One in four unpaid caregivers are feeling more stress trying to balance work and family due to COVID-19, and caregivers suffer from more stress-related physical and behavioral health conditions, such as hypertension (64% more prevalent), major depression (37% more prevalent) and anxiety (34% more prevalent). Those figures are just further evidence that company leaders need to step up to help.

“Employers and HR leaders can help by acting compassionately, developing flexible work policies that support the unique circumstances of caregivers and alleviating some of the added stress they might feel in the workplace as they support their loved ones,” Nelson says. “Employers can also continue to remind employees about the availability of company resources that support physical and mental well-being during this time, such as telehealth and behavioral health services.”

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver.