How Covid-19 has affected informal caregivers and their lives in Germany

Heinz Rothgang (U. of Bremen), Karin Wolf-Ostermann (U. of Bremen), Dominik Domhoff (U. of Bremen), Franziska Heinze, (U. of Bremen), Moritz Heß (U. of Applied Sciences Niederrhein), Thomas Kalwitzki (U. of Bremen, Katrin Ratz (U. of Bremen),  Annika Schmidt (U. of Bremen), Kathrin Seibert, (U. of Bremen), Claudia Stolle (City University of Applied Sciences Bremen), Henrik Wiegelmann (U. of Bremen)

The Covid-19 pandemic constitutes a challenge to many social groups. One of the groups more at risk are informal carers, who in many countries – and Germany in particular – are the “backbone” of long-term care. To explore how they experience caregiving during the Covid-19 pandemic, what challenges they face and what support they would like to see from politicians, employers, and other stakeholders, we conducted a survey among informal caregivers. The aim was to investigate how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected them and their lives, and how the measures of social distancing and stricter hygiene have changed caregiving.

More than 1,000 informal caregivers in Germany under the age of 67 filled in an online survey. They were questioned for instance about the use of formal services, reconciliation of work and care, changes in the burden of care and feelings of loneliness since the beginning of the pandemic.

Preliminary key findings are:

  • Only a very small share of the respondents say that they have been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2.
  • Nevertheless, more than half of the respondents report that their care arrangement has changed since the outbreak of the pandemic.
  • For almost 60 percent care has become more time demanding. One main reason for this is the lack of professional support. Professional support providers reduced their services during the pandemic, although respondents did also demand less help.
  • Over two thirds of informal caregivers state that the reconciliation of work and care has become more difficult due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, also two thirds say that they are satisfied with the way their employers handled the crisis.
  • The subjective feeling of burden as well as social and emotional loneliness have increased substantially.
  • Finally, more than half of the respondents state that their subjective health and quality of life have worsened since the beginning of the pandemic and
  • although most informal caregivers do support the government’s measures to fight the virus, they do not feel recognized properly as a group that is affected by the consequences of the pandemic.

Further detailed analysis aims to explore in more detail gender differences and also whether people with low socio-economic status are more strongly affected by the pandemic.

A first implication from the preliminary results – which is also important in the light of a potential second and third wave – is that we need to acknowledge the needs of informal caregivers in addition to hospitals and long-term care homes in order to help ensure sustainable long-term care during pandemics.

More details (in German language) are available at:

Leave a Reply