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Image J Nurs Sch. 1999;31(2):115-20.

Effects of home care on caregivers' psychosocial status.

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Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.



To examine changes in the psychosocial status of caregivers of post-surgical patients with cancer, and how their status was affected by (a) whether caregivers had physical problems of their own, and (b) whether the patient received a home care intervention. Many studies in this area to date have not included sufficient measurement points to identify fluctuations in psychosocial status over time. In addition, many have used caregiver health as an outcome rather than a predictor.


Longitudinal, randomized trial using a sample of 161 caregivers of cancer patients being treated at one large university hospital in the northeastern United States, 1993-1996. Half the patients were randomly assigned to receive a standardized home-care nursing intervention. The population of interest was caregivers of patients who were (a) diagnosed with a solid-tumor cancer within the past 2 months, (b) age 60 or older, (c) hospitalized for surgical treatment of the cancer and expected to live at least 6 months, and (d) had a complex problem at hospital discharge. All caregivers were living with the patient at time of discharge.


Data were collected in structured interviews administered at the time of the patients' discharge and approximately 3 and 6 months later. Psychosocial status was measured using the Caregiver Reaction Assessment and the CES-Depression scale. A repeated-measures analysis of variance was performed for each psychosocial measure, using as factors Time (i.e., interview 1, 2, or 3), Group (treatment and control), and Caregiver Physical Problem.


Overall, psychosocial status improved from baseline to 3 months, and was about the same at 6 months. Among caregivers with physical problems, the psychosocial status of those in the treatment group declined compared to those in the control groups in the 3 months after discharge; an opposite pattern was observed in the following 3 months.


People who are caregivers for cancer patients and have physical problems of their own are at risk for psychologic morbidity, which may have a delayed onset. This delay may reflect the replacement of an initial optimism with discouragement as the reality of long-term illness sets in. Home care may create a situation in which caregivers are required to confront the realities of long-term caregiving quickly, cutting short their initial optimism, but also preparing them for what is to come.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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