Cancer Caregivers Report More Stress Than For Non-Cancer Conditions Interview with:

Erin Kent, PhD, MS Program Director Outcomes Research Branch of the Healthcare Delivery Research Program National Cancer Institute

Dr. Erin Kent

Erin Kent, PhD, MS
Program Director
Outcomes Research Branch of the Healthcare Delivery Research Program
National Cancer Institute What is the background for this study?

Response: Informal or family caregivers assist loved ones by providing care which is typically uncompensated, takes place typically at home, and often involves significant efforts for an extended period of time. Caregiving can require the performance of demanding tasks, which include managing symptom burden, monitoring for side effects from treatment, coordinating care, administering medication, and managing a care recipient’s financial and social obligations. In addition, there are many unique aspects of cancer that can place unique demands on caregivers, including sometimes a rapid deterioration of health, the receipt of multi-modal therapy (eg. surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation), and the possibility of cancer recurrence. What are the main findings?

Response: The objective of the current study was to compare individuals who report caregiving in the past year for an adult with cancer as compared to a individuals who report caregiving for adults with other health problems. We used data from the National Alliance for Caregiving 2015 Caregiving in the U.S. study, a population-based study of American adults from an probability-based online sample. We compared 111 cancer caregivers to 1,164 non-cancer caregivers.

We found that cancer caregivers report higher burden than non-cancer caregivers (62% vs. 38%), significantly more time caregiving per week (32.9 vs. 23.9 hours), and significantly more reported high emotional stress (50% vs. 37%). Significantly more cancer caregivers indicate interacting with key providers, agencies, and professionals on behalf of their care recipients: 82% report communicating with healthcare professionals (vs. 62%), 76% monitor/adjust care (vs. 66%), and 62% report advocating for care recipient (vs. 49%). Finally, almost twice the number of cancer caregivers than non-cancer caregivers (40% vs. 21%) report needing more help/information with making end-of-life decisions. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Cancer affects all population groups, and cancer caregivers may be facing high burden and high emotional stress. Cancer caregivers are more likely to help with communicating with providers, monitoring the health condition of their care recipient, advocating with providers and agencies, and wanting help with end-of-life decision-making. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: More research is needed to characterize the diversity of caregivers, the competing demands and many roles that cancer caregivers play. Special attention should be paid to studying the role that caregivers may have in obtaining palliative care and decision-making when prognosis changes. In addition, future research should develop, test, and disseminate effective interventions targeting caregivers reporting high burden or emotional stress. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Please see the full report at: Thank you for your contribution to the community.

Citation: Study will be presented at the upcoming 2016 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium in San Francisco.

Cancer Caregivers Experience Unique Burdens Compared With Those Caring for Patients With Other Conditions

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on September 9, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD