Like so much in 2020, family traditions will not look the same this year for many Americans, including families in which caring for a loved one is a part of their lives.
A new AARP survey of caregivers found that a wave of anxiety over the pandemic is altering travels plans and prompting new precautions as loved ones figure out how to safely gather — if at all — this holiday season.
About 64% of those polled expect to change their typical holiday traditions, and 77% say the pandemic will affect their plans at least to some extent. More than three quarters of respondents, all of whom were over 18 and providing unpaid care for a friend or family member, indicated high worry about the risk of COVID-19 exposure by visiting others.
Still, concern over the pandemic isn't shutting down celebrations altogether.
AARP research shows that 62% of family caregivers expect to get together with family at some point over the holidays. Many will take steps to stay healthy, however. About four in ten say they will limit the size of gatherings, wear a mask, and avoid physical contact — which means skipping the usual hugs. One-third will try to maximize distance between guests and about one quarter will avoid overnight visits. About 20% may self-quarantine or request a COVID-19 test for peace of mind.
More folks like the idea of staying closer to home. Just one-third of caregivers surveyed said that they plan to travel this holiday season. Most who do travel will adjust their routines somewhat by traveling during nonpeak times (67%) or self-quarantining around the time of their travel schedules (27% before travel; 35% afterward). About 40% will hop in a car rather than fly to get to their destination. Among those who head to the airport, about one-third will look for airlines with strict safety protocols, AARP found.
Aside from affecting travel and family plans, the pandemic is taking a toll on American's overall sense of well-being. AARP research found that about half of those surveyed felt that the pandemic had a negative impact on their personal mental health and that of those for whom they cared. Almost one in six described their current mental state as fair or poor.
Topping the list of emotions many are experiencing during the pandemic were worry, anxiety, stress, sadness, anger, and loneliness. The survey found older, female caregivers were having a rougher time mentally coping than men or caregivers under age 50.
The survey was conducted online in October 2020 and included a sample of 1,000 family caregivers.