The vital role played by family caregivers in supporting dying cancer patients is well recognized, but the burden and economic impact on caregivers is poorly understood.
In this issue of CMAJ, Grunfeld and colleagues present the results of their prospective study of 89 caregivers of women with advanced breast cancer for 3 years or until the patient's death. They found that, as patients moved into the last stages of their illness, greater proportion of caregivers became depressed (30%) and experienced a higher level of burden (26.2%) than the patients (9% and 19% respectively).
A significant proportion of caregivers had to miss work to look after their family member. The mean financial burden borne by families during the patients' illnesses was $8292 for those without and $5765 for those with extended health insurance.
The authors state that, with fewer cute care and palliative care beds in the hospital system, family caregivers will be increasingly relied on to provide support for dying cancer patients. In a related commentary, Zarit emphasizes that family caregivers are an essential part of the management team whose needs must be addressed during the course of the patient's illness.
Source: Eurekalert & othersLast reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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