Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Carers likely to see long-term effects on mental health following the pandemic

Relatives of people with a learning disability are likely to see long-term effects on their mental health following the pandemic and should receive adequate and accessible professional support, according to new research.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, found that although the quality of life among relatives did not significantly change during the pandemic, it did pose non-negligible risks to their wellbeing.

Surveys were administered to three samples of relatives in the Netherlands
in 2019 (N = 105) and during the first waves of Covid-19 in June (N = 207) and October 2020 (N = 332). Associations between quality of life and care burden, care competence, social support, and resilience, and changes over time were analysed using (logistic) regressions.

Resilience is an important buffering factor during the pandemic

Two factors that turned out to be highly predictive of quality of life changed during the pandemic: experienced care burden increased and perceived care competence decreased.

The authors said that this makes it essential to continue monitoring the long-term effects and provide relatives with adequate and accessible professional support.

They said that the findings of this study can be used to guide support for relatives and this support should focus on reducing the care burden and increasing perceived competence.

By providing access to alternative forms of respite care and expanding the capacity of (temporary) residential care, relatives might experience less care burden. It added that tools and information on caregiving during the pandemic could increase relatives’ perceived competence.

Since resilience is an important buffering factor during the pandemic, relatives could benefit from psychological help. Furthermore, facilitating peer contact could be a useful way to increase social support, which is positively related to a good quality of life during the pandemic.

The authors concluded: “Supporting relatives during the pandemic is important for their own mental health and for their caregiving role.”

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