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Physical Health, Mental Health, and Life Changes Among Family Caregivers of Patients With Lung Cancer

The objective of this study is to describe physical health, mental health, and life changes among family caregivers of patients with lung cancer. Cross-sectional quantitative study design implemented. A university outpatient oncology center, two Veterans Affairs outpatient clinics, and a private outpatient oncology practice in Indianapolis, IN. Sample: 91 family caregivers of patients with lung cancer. Data were collected using standardized instruments and analyzed using descriptive statistics and hierarchical multiple regression. Main research variables were demographic and medical factors, physical health, mental health, and life changes from caregiving. Caregivers’ physical health and mental health were below population norms, whereas social functioning did not differ from norms. More than 50% of caregivers reported negative emotional effects of caregiving, and more than 33% reported negative physical health effects of caregiving. About 40% of caregivers, however, reported positive changes in their relationships with the patients with lung cancer and other family members as a result of caregiving. Caregivers’ mental health was more strongly associated with life changes than physical health. Findings suggest that many family caregivers of patients with lung cancer experience negative physical and mental health effects of caregiving, whereas relations with family members improve for a substantial minority of caregivers. These positive and negative consequences of caregiving should be jointly considered when developing self-report measures and interventions for this population.

Nurses can conduct brief screening assessments to identify caregivers with probable distress and can provide practical and psychosocial support, as well as referrals to support services. Findings suggest that interventions are needed to address the negative physical and emotional health consequences of caring for family members with lung cancer. Such interventions could build on the relational benefits of caregiving to improve the patient-caregiver relationship and expand caregivers’ support system.


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