PhD Scientific Days 2021

Budapest, 7-8 July 2021

MH_II_L: Mental Health Sciences II. Lectures

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Family Carers of Older People Living with Dementia in Italy and Hungary

1 László Árpád Kostyál Institute of Mental Health, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary
2 Zsuzsa Széman Institute of Mental Health, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary
2 Virág Erzsébet Almási Independent researcher, Budapest, Hungary
2 Paolo Fabbietti Unit of Geriatric Pharmacoepidemiology and Biostatistics, IRCCS INRCA-National Institute of Health and Science on Ageing, Ancona, Italy
2 Sabrina Quattrini Centre for Socio-Economic Research on Ageing, IRCCS INRCA-National Institute of Health and Science on Ageing, Ancona, Italy
2 Giovanni Lamura Centre for Socio-Economic Research on Ageing, IRCCS INRCA-National Institute of Health and Science on Ageing, Ancona, Italy
2 Cristina Gagliardi Centre for Socio-Economic Research on Ageing, IRCCS INRCA-National Institute of Health and Science on Ageing, Ancona, Italy

Text of the abstract

Introduction:
According to the World Health Organization, dementia is one of the more serious challenges of the future, partly because of its implications for families carrying out most of the necessary care work to people having such disease. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on both older people with dementia and families caring for them.

Aims:
The aim of the research was to compare the difficulties of family carers of dementia patients in Italy and in Hungary, before and during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research questions were the following: (1) How has the pandemic changed the lives of family carers? (2) How did government stringency measures change the availability of care-related help? (3) What other changes did families experience?

Method:
Due to the difficulty of reaching the target group, as well as restrictions related to the pandemic, the online questionnaire designed for this study was distributed in both countries via social media channels (self-help Facebook groups of family carers of people with dementia). Data was collected between May and July 2020. The sample consisted of 188 Italian and 182 Hungarian respondents.
The software used for running statistical analyses was IBM SPSS Statistics (version 24.0.0.0).

Results:
Results show that about one-quarter of both subsamples experienced a deterioration in their financial status. A decline in both general and mental health was also reported. Due to “lockdown”, family carers’ burden increased substantially. Utilization of care-related help decreased, and the share of those left with no help increased in both countries. Cross-country differences emerged in terms of dementia care system, severity of the first pandemic wave, and measures put in place by governments.
Conclusion:
Findings outline the weaknesses of support structures and their country-specific vulnerabilities to a worldwide pandemic. To better protect people with dementia in the future, it is essential to strengthen their family carers, and support structures need to be re-evaluated and re-designed.
Funding:
Online data collection in Italy, carried out by IRCCS INRCA, was funded by Ricerca Corrente, Italian Ministry of Health.

University and Doctoral School

Semmelweis University, Doctoral School of Mental Health Sciences