Mass. group generating awareness and support for unpaid caregivers

BEVERLY, Mass. — When is the last time you asked yourself how you’re feeling, whether you’re stressed, depressed, and what’s contributing to that? So many of us have been taking care of everyone but ourselves, especially during the last 18 months.

“There’s a lot of talk about, ‘Oh, take care of yourself’. Anyone who’s an unpaid caregiver knows your life is all about serving that person that you’re caring for, or people that you’re caring for,” said Alex Drane co-founder of the start up, Archangels.

Boston 25 News anchor Kerry Kavanaugh found this Beverly-based group is trying to raise aware and create support for the legion of unpaid caregivers. The key to this is understanding what an unpaid caregiver is.

“Such an important question,” Drane said. “Anybody who’s caring for somebody in any capacity, and they could be a neighbor, they could be a spouse, they could be a child, who’s in this role, providing love and support to somebody.” And, doing so for no money, said Drane.

“So most people might say, that’s life. That’s everyone. We’re all caregivers. What’s the big deal,” Kavanaugh asked.

“That is true. And I think unpaid caregivers are everyone,” Drane said. “It has an outsized impact on your health, physically and emotionally.”

Drane pointed to a recent CDC study showing in 2020-2021, 43 percent of Americans were unpaid caregivers. Of them, 70 percent reported the role had a serious mental health impact including anxiety, depression, even suicidal thoughts.

“The more you’re doing on a regular basis, the more it starts to impact all aspects of your health,” Drane said.

To understand that, Archangels offers a ‘caregiver intensity index.’ Think of it like an online mental health assessment or a quick quiz.

“A quick set of questions that gives you a score puts you in the green, yellow, or red. And it tells you what are the top four things that are driving that intensity that you’re feeling as an unpaid caregiver, but also what’s alleviating it,” said Drane.

And then it goes one step further. The group connects people to appropriate available resources.

“A lot of times the person who is being cared for is on the minds of a lot of people, and they’re thinking about them sending them cards, the caregiver is often kind of the forgotten person,” said Rev. Donnie Anderson, a LGBTQ+ activist currently serving at the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in New Bedford.

She said she’s introducing this quiz and discussion to her church members to help them understand it’s OK to acknowledge personal struggles.

She said she knows so many people in her faith community are carrying so much.

“And this campaign is so important for folks to realize that they’re not alone, right? That there’s other people doing this, and there are resources for them,” Anderson said.

“And one of the most important things is just allowing people to care for you,” Drane said.

Drane thinks it’s so important that conversations around wellbeing happen at work. She said employers need to recognize they help struggling workers.

Archangels launched this campaign with sponsor Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts. A spokesperson sent us the following statement about why they believe in this mission:

“As a health plan, we’ve long recognized that caregivers are critical to the health and well-being of the people they care for and that their own health and well-being can often suffer. As an employer, BCBSMA has for many years recognized and supported our employees who are caregivers – from additional child and eldercare benefits to mental health forums focused on caregiving. We’re hopeful that the Any Care Counts campaign will help bring more widespread awareness and attention to caregivers and the vital role they play so we can ensure they get the connections and support they need.”

If you are interested in taking the assessment and getting your caregiver intensity score click here.

Archangels says no personally-identifiable information is collected.

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