Characteristics and well-being of urban informal home care providers during COVID-19 pandemic: A population-based study
Chan EYY., Lo ESK., Huang Z., Kim JH., Hung H., Hung KKC., Wong ELY., Wong SYS., Gobat N.
Objectives Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has overwhelmed many healthcare systems, which has hampered access to routine clinical care during lockdowns. Informal home care, care provided by non-healthcare professionals, increases the community's healthcare capacity during pandemics. There is, however, limited research about the characteristics of informal home care providers and the challenges they face during such public health emergencies. Design A random, cross-sectional, population-based, RDD, telephone survey study was conducted to examine patterns of home care, characteristics of informal home care providers and the challenges experienced by these care providers during this pandemic. Setting Data were collected from 22 March to 1 April 2020 in Hong Kong, China. Participants A population representative study sample of Chinese-speaking adults (n=765) was interviewed. Primary and secondary outcome measures The study examined the characteristics of informal home care providers and self-reported health requirements of those who needed care. The study also examined providers' self-perceived knowledge to provide routine home care as well as COVID-19 risk reduction care. Respondents were asked of their mental health status related to COVID-19. Results Of the respondents, 25.1% of 765 provided informal home care during the studied COVID-19 pandemic period. Among the informal home care providers, 18.4% of respondents took leave from school/work during the epidemic to provide care for the sick, fragile elderly and small children. Care providers tended to be younger aged, female and housewives. Approximately half of care providers reported additional mental strain and 37.2% reported of challenges in daily living during epidemic. Although most informal home care providers felt competent to provide routine care, 49.5% felt inadequately prepared to cope with the additional health risks of COVID-19. Conclusion During public health emergencies, heavy reliance on informal home healthcare providers necessitates better understanding of their specific needs and increased government services to support informal home care.