A Study to Determine the Needs of Family Caregivers of Persons with Cancer

Thomas, Robi

Cancer is one of the most common terminal illnesses facing Americans, and increasingly, families are responsible for caring for the patient. The purpose of this study was to determine the most important needs of family caregivers, in order for health care professionals to provide resources to assist in meeting those needs. There were 53 participants in the study, all of whom were caregivers of persons with cancer. There were 24 male and 29 female caregivers, ranging in age from 23-81. The three most common types of cancer patients had were breast cancer (28.3%), lung cancer (13.2%) and colon cancer (9.4%). The instrument used in the study measured areas of caregiving important to the caregiver, comfort levels of the caregiver in providing care, and importance of assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). SPSS was used to obtain descriptive statistics, and T-tests and ANOVA were performed to determine results. Results showed the priority needs were: information about the patients illness, finding positive aspects about the situation, adapting to their new roles, and preparing for death. Caregivers were least comfortable talking about their own needs and preparing for death, and most comfortable with finding meaning in the experience, understanding the patients‟ illness and talking about spirituality. No differences in needs were found based on type of cancer, or relationship of caregiver, but significant differences were found between relationship and need with assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). Differences were found between spouses & daughters (p=.006), daughters and friends (p =.000) and sibling and friend caregivers (p=.04).. A moderately negative correlation found between age and assistance with ADLs (r= -.47), meaning the older the caregiver was, the less important assistance with ADLs was. This study indicates that family caregivers have basic needs that health care professionals must address.