BMJ Open 12 (1) e054607 [2022-01-04; online 2022-01-04]
A demand for informal care exists worldwide. Lithuania presents an interesting case example where the need for the informal care is increasing, but relatively little research has been conducted documenting caregivers' experiences and needs. The main objective of this study was to investigate Lithuanian informal caregiver characteristics, support needs and burden. In addition, the impact of the COVID-19 on the caregiver's and care receiver's well-being was investigated. The study was conducted online between May and September 2020. Informal caregivers and individuals with informal caregiving experiences were invited to participate in the survey. The survey questionnaire comprised 38 multiple-choice items including participant demographic characteristics, availability of the support, support needs, well-being and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, caregiver burden was assessed with the 24-item Caregiver Burden Inventory (CBI). A total of 226 individuals completed the survey. Most of the participants were women (87.6%). Almost half of the participants (48.7%) were not receiving any support, and a total of 73.9% expressed a need to receive more professional support. Participants were found to experience high burden on the CBI (M=50.21, SD=15.63). Women were found to be significantly more burdened than men (p=0.011). Even though many participants experienced psychological problems (55.8%), only 2.2% were receiving any psychological support. Finally, majority of the participants did not experience any changes in their own (63.7%) or the well-being of their care receiver (68.1%) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the participants were identified as intensive caregivers experiencing a high burden. A majority did not experience changes in their well-being due to COVID-19. We propose several recommendations for increasing accessibility and availability of support for informal caregivers in Lithuania based on the study findings.