How Health Insurers Can Ease the Mental and Emotional Toll of Caregiving for Members

Insurers can assist with navigating the complexities of the healthcare system so caregivers can focus on what matters most — spending quality time with a loved one.

The mental and emotional health of family caregivers is being pushed to the limit. More than 50 million adults in the U.S. provide unpaid support for loved ones with illnesses and developmental disabilities, yet recent data show that 71% of caregivers have faced immense challenges during the pandemic.

While caring for a parent, child, spouse, in-law, or grandparent can be rewarding in many ways, it also takes a substantial emotional and mental toll. Burn out and feeling overwhelmed are common and may have a significant impact on relationships, careers, finances, and personal wellbeing. Even in the best of times, caregivers tend to ignore their own healthcare needs.

Over the past year and half, 76% had challenges with other family members because of caregiving, 74% experienced anxiety, 62% suffered from depression, 44% increased substance use, and 38% have had suicidal thoughts. Fortunately, health insurers are in a unique position to help address these challenges for members who are caregivers to others.

Here are a few ways health insurers can support the total health and wellbeing of their members who are family caregivers:

Prioritize mental and emotional health

The mental and emotional health of members is just as important as their physical health. Caregivers face a unique set of obstacles that present significant challenges to their total wellbeing. From confronting difficult family members and navigating hard conversations to dealing with the trauma of watching a loved one’s health fail, caregivers bear a heavy emotional load.

During times like these, caregivers need to know exactly where to turn for mental and emotional health resources when needed. By expanding coverage to include programs such as annual mental health checkups and convenient access to licensed mental health professionals, health insurers can better support the total needs of their members.

Offer expert caregiving resources

Caregivers frequently manage health appointments, care plans, medications, meals, difficult healthcare decisions, and more for their loved ones while balancing the daily tasks of their own busy lives. These responsibilities can be overwhelming, and they detract from the rewarding and joyful aspects of caregiving.

Health insurers can assist caregivers in navigating the complexities of the healthcare system and improve health outcomes for the members and for whom they care. By utilizing coordinated care plans and solutions, members can connect to professional caregiving resources, including expert teams of physicians, nurses, social workers and counselors.

Filling this void can help caregivers get back to what matters most — spending quality time with their loved one.

Provide continuous support

As the U.S health environment continues to shift, many caregivers may struggle even more to manage their responsibilities at home. Health insurers should be prepared to routinely assess and determine their members’ needs and provide them with the right services. Specific, individualized solutions will ensure that members receive effective and holistic support throughout their caregiving journey.

Demanding responsibilities have an undeniable impact on caregivers, but health insurers are well-positioned to ease the mental and emotional strain through mental health and caregiving support. Expert resources and guidance can improve the mental and physical health outcomes of both caregivers and their loved ones, boost member retention, and enhance overall satisfaction.

K. Andrew Crighton, M.D., is an advisory board member at Family First and former chief medical officer of Prudential Financial.