Today, about 1 in 5 American adults are informal caregivers for an adult or child with special needs.1 Of those informal caregivers, 2 out of 3 have reported struggling with at least one mental health condition – including anxiety, depression or stress.2 In fact, 40-70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression.3
To better support employees who are informal caregivers, employers can offer stress-free, convenient access to virtual care for anxiety, depression, grief and other mental health concerns. Better access to healthcare makes a difference when it comes to attracting and retaining employees, as well as encouraging a healthier workforce.
Virtual primary care paired with virtual mental health can support patients throughout their unique healthcare journeys. Primary care doctors provide the most care for mental health concerns and prescription management of all doctors.4 Medication therapy combined with counseling is an important treatment strategy for those struggling to cope with the stressors of caregiving. Virtual primary care can provide medication therapy for many mental health conditions while virtual mental health can provide counseling for dual therapy, leading to better whole-person health guidance.
Here are the ways virtual care can support caregivers:
Quick Appointment Turnaround: Caregiver.org reports “nearly 1 in 4 caregivers spend 41 hours or more per week providing care.”5 The time requirements for caring for a loved one limit a caregiver's ability to get their own care. As it’s a full-time job, getting in-person care is inconvenient. With virtual care, caregivers can schedule appointments 24/7 and visit with a primary care physician (PCP) or virtual counselor in about 3 to 5 days. Currently, the national wait time to see a psychologist is 6 weeks and the wait times to see a PCP is more than 3 weeks.6,7 Virtual care significantly reduces the wait time to see a doctor or counselor and gets caregivers help where and when they need it.
Access: Along with shortening the wait time to see a counselor, virtual mental health makes support easily accessible. Available via app, website or phone, caregivers can visit with a virtual doctor or counselor in the comfort and safety of a space of their choosing. They do not have to worry about travel or coordinating care for their loved one. There are no geographic limitations with virtual primary care or virtual mental health, expanding access to meaningful mental health support. Plus, there are no pre-defined restrictions on the number of visits, allowing patients to see their doctor or counselor as many times as they need.
Cost: According to a recent AARP Report, “nearly eight in 10 caregivers report having routine out-of-pocket expenses related to looking after their loved ones” and the annual amount of spending is more than $7,000 – which 26% of their annual incomes.8 Caregivers often forego their own health due to costs and can’t afford the $100 to $200 appointments with psychiatrists. Plus, to receive the best results, a patient must continually visit a doctor over many weeks, months or years. Cost is a major deterrent for seeking care for caregivers. With virtual care, patients can access quality, cost-free mental health support for themselves or family members.
Removing Barriers: Aside from cost and access being two of the biggest barriers to care, there are other personal deterrents to consider. Taking time off work, travel and finding care for their loved ones can prevent a caregiver from seeking care. Since virtual care is digital and appointments take place via app, website or over the phone, patients don’t have to skip appointments due to personal concerns.
Whole-Person Health Guidance: With virtual primary care, doctors guide members through the right treatment plans for their mental health condition. Mental health and physical health are intricately interwoven, and doctor and counselor guidance support these dualities. 11% of caregivers report a deterioration in their physical health due to caregiving and 17% of caregivers report their general health has worsened over time.3
First Stop Health (FSH) Virtual Primary Care & Virtual Mental Health
With Virtual Primary Care and Virtual Mental Health from First Stop Health, members who are caregivers have access to FSH virtual doctors for prescription management and counselors for short-term, solution-focused counseling 24/7. Appointments take place virtually from the comfort and safety of whatever space they prefer, and it is little-to-no cost to use. Personal barriers are removed so members can prioritize their health and still support their loved ones.