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Support Care Cancer. 2012 Sep;20(9):1937-47. doi: 10.1007/s00520-011-1295-5. Epub 2011 Nov 12.

The impact of a problem-solving intervention on increasing caregiver assistance and improving caregiver health.

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University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.



There is a paucity of research evaluating the impact of symptom management interventions on increasing family caregiver involvement in symptom management and on caregivers' emotional health. In addition, most caregiver interventions are delivered by a health care professional, which can be costly to implement in clinical practice. The purpose of this study was to determine whether, in patients with solid tumors, a nurse-delivered symptom management intervention was more effective than a coach-led intervention in increasing caregiver involvement in symptom management and improving caregivers' emotional health.


Both caregivers and care recipients were recruited for the study. Inclusion criteria for patients were ≥40 years of age, English speaking, cognitively intact, and having a diagnosis of stage III or IV tumor. Dyads were randomized to a nurse-delivered symptom management intervention (N = 88) versus the coach-led group (N = 81). Data were collected via telephone interviews at baseline, 10, and 16 weeks.


There was no significant main effect of the problem-solving intervention on symptom assistance at 10 weeks, but there were two significant interactions, between trial arm and depressive symptoms and between baseline assistance with symptoms and relationship to the patient. Caregivers with lower depressive symptoms were more likely (OR = 1.99, 95% CI = 1.45-2.76) to provide assistance at 10 weeks if they received the nurse-delivered intervention. Spousal (versus non-spouses) caregivers who provided assistance at baseline were less likely to provide assistance at 10 weeks (OR = 0.58, 95% CI 0.36-0.94). No significant trial arm effects were found on caregiver emotional health, but assistance with greater number of symptoms was associated with worse caregiver depressive symptoms (p < 0.01) and burden (impact on schedule, p < 0.01).


Findings suggest that a nurse-delivered problem-solving intervention increases family caregivers' level of assistance in symptom management for caregivers with lower levels of depressive symptoms. Data also suggest interventions focused solely on care recipient symptom management may not be effective in improving caregivers' emotional health.

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