This Thanksgiving, I want to recognize the caregivers who have stuck by so many of us throughout COVID-19 this year. The impact on caregivers’ mental health is a significant one, and I’m delighted to showcase two organizations doing important work to support caregivers everywhere.
I’m sure you will remember Alex Drane, CEO of ARCHANGELS, joining us with Marcus Osborne, Senior Vice President of Walmart Health, at last year’s Going Digital: Behavioral Health Tech conference (watch session free here). ARCHANGELS is a national movement and platform that is reframing how caregivers are seen, honored, and supported using a combination of data and stories, through public and private partnerships. ARCHANGELS provides communities (including states, employers, healthcare providers, and payers) with an omni-channel data-driven engagement approach that changes caregiver’s lives (as well as top and bottom lines) for the better. Check out her recent report with McKinsey about the health of American unpaid caregivers amid COVID-19 and her collab with BCBSA Health of America here (and watch BCBSA Health of American's GDBHT2021 session here, too).
I was elated to hear that Alex and her team have teamed up with CaringBridge, another organization I’m proud to support. CaringBridge is a nonprofit social network that offers simple tools for patients and their caregivers to share health updates and rally their community’s support. A health journey of any kind—diagnosis, injury, medical or behavioral health condition, pregnancy complications or other experiences—is difficult to endure alone. At a time when COVID-19 has impacted so many lives, I am pleased with how CaringBridge is leveraging technology to ensure that no one goes through a health journey alone. Tia and Alex both shared their perspectives with me on caregiving, mental health and tech:
Solome: How does technology play a role in making sure no one experiences a health journey alone?
Tia: While we’ve all read recent studies spotlighting the downside of social media and its correlation with increased isolation, technology can play a positive role in building community when going through difficult times. We’re in the beginning stages of investigating longitudinal research on how CaringBridge, a nonprofit digital social platform for people going through a health journey, specifically improves health outcomes. What we know right now is that people with social support have better health outcomes, less inflammation, and are more likely to adhere to treatment regimens. We also know that caregivers’ anxiety and depression decreases by up to 30% when using a digital tool like CaringBridge (as they know someone is in their corner offering support). And during the pandemic, we continue to work with healthcare institutions like Johns Hopkins to provide CaringBridge as a tool to manage patient communication with family and friends.
Ultimately, we believe in digital social technology like CaringBridge that enables simple and easy communication and support in one place. And with a singular focus on health journeys, we can provide a safe and private space to create community and support during a most stressful time.
Solome: Why is it important that people see themselves as caregivers and what are the mental health implications if they aren't recognized as such?
Alex: The intensity of caregiving is real – full stop. We feel its impacts on every side – the good, and the not-so-good. Then there’s this: of the 43% of adults in the US serving as a caregiver right now, around half of us don’t even identify as caregivers in the first place. It’s kinda hard to be supported in something not acknowledged. And caregiving is an area where we could all use some support. We know from ARCHANGELS data recently published with the CDC that 70% of unpaid caregivers are experiencing at least one adverse mental health symptom – it’s 91% for High-Intensity caregivers (those ‘in the red’). But we also know there is indisputable power in ‘the knowing’… as in knowing respite services exist reduces stress by 70%. How we engage with caregivers matters – and finding and using language that ‘speaks’ to the close to the one in two of us caring for a loved one is a vital part of providing support.
This year, I was delighted to join the CaringBridge Board of Directors. The board will be matching donations made on November 30, Giving Tuesday, up to $100,000. Along with the matching gift, please join me for a virtual gathering open to all on Tuesday, November 30th from 7:00-7:30 PM CST. It will be a night of gratitude and story sharing, featuring co-hosts Tia Newcomer, CEO of CaringBridge and Emmy award- winning journalist Cathy Wurzer along with Alexandra Drane, CEO of ARCHANGELS.
Finally, thank you, to all of the caregivers pouring your compassion and energy into loved ones each day. It is of utmost importance that we as a society prioritize your mental health with additional resources and support.