We analyzed whether spousal and adult child caregivers of older adults differed from each other and from non-caregivers in terms of the social support available to them during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether available support differed by gender, and whether the perception of pandemic restrictions moderated these differences.
Participants (≥40 years) were randomly drawn from the population-based German online panel forsa.omninet. Between 4 th and 19 th March 2021, 2520 non-caregivers, 337 adult child caregivers and 55 spousal caregivers were questioned about social support, perception of pandemic restrictions, health and sociodemographic information. Adjusted regression analyses and moderator analyses were conducted.
Adult child caregivers had higher social support from family and friends than non-caregivers, and more support from friends than spousal caregivers. Spousal caregivers had less social support from friends compared to both groups. The perceived restrictions of the pandemic moderated the differences in support from family and friends between spousal caregivers and non-caregivers, and the differences between spousal and adult child caregivers in support from friends. Gender moderated the difference in support by friends between caregiving and non-caregiving wives and sons(-in-law).
Informal caregivers seemed to have a supportive informal network during the pandemic. However, spousal caregivers only had similar levels of support as adult child caregivers if they strongly perceived restrictions of the pandemic, and had the lowest support level of all three groups – in particular from friends. Thus, spousal caregivers may benefit most from support actions, and these should focus on their wider social network.