Caregivers of early-stage lung cancer patients face anxiety and moderate burden

Health care providers can help ease caregiver burden by teaching coping strategies, the authors said.

People with lung cancer not only rely on oncologists and other health care providers to manage their disease, but they also need help from family members, friends and friends. other caregivers.

Few previous studies have focused on the burdens faced by caregivers in cases where cancers are caught early; most have examined the burdens associated with caring for people with advanced lung cancer.

In a new report in Clinical Nursing Journal, researchers from Central South University and the University of Hong Kong, both in China, explored the experiences of caregivers in cases of early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). The objective of the study was to better understand their burdens and to identify the predictors of caregiver burden within this category of patients.

The study involved carers of 385 people with early-stage NSCLC and patients who had undergone surgical treatment for cancer. Caregivers were interviewed using the Zarit Caregiver Burden assessment and were asked to complete questionnaires related to psychosocial characteristics.

Overall, the mean (SD) Zarit interview score was 29.1 (11.4), which the investigators believe puts the average caregiver in the mild to moderate burden category.

The authors said caregivers experience a high degree of uncertainty when a loved one is diagnosed with NSCLC. They must adapt not only to the initial reality of a cancer diagnosis, but also to the changing burdens associated with the treatment and reassessment process. Still, the authors said their findings suggest lower caregiver workload than reported in previous studies, likely because the caregivers in this study specifically cared for people with early-stage disease.

“Demand from caregivers to help their patients meet physical needs during the early stages is low as these patients may experience few restrictions in their daily activities, indicating that caregivers are experiencing mild to moderate levels of workload,” they wrote, adding that the relatively low burden experience could also reflect cultural norms in China, where caring for family members in need is seen by many as a “spiritual duty and responsibility”.

Still, they said certain factors can increase the burden felt by caregivers, such as the length of time they have to provide care. Caregiver anxiety can also increase the burden they feel. Such anxiety could be related to difficulty coping with the diagnosis or uncertainty about how they will be able to meet the patient’s needs.

The study authors said it is important for healthcare professionals to help educate caregivers about coping strategies to reduce anxiety and that while previous research has suggested that social support plays an important role in reducing caregiver burden, no similar correlation was found in this study of early-stage caregivers or patients, “probably because medical staff members can provide professional care and support to patients hospitalized patients and their carers and potentially reduce the burden on carers”.

The authors concluded that this topic deserves further investigation, but they said it is important for healthcare providers to be vigilant, not only of the patient, but also of those around them.

“Clinical health care professionals should develop comprehensive and ongoing pre- and postoperative supportive care plans to meet the needs of caregivers while reducing caregiver burden,” they said.

Reference

Zhu S, Yang C, Mei W, et al. Caregiver burden for caregivers of patients after surgical treatment of early-stage lung cancer. Nurses J Clin. Published online July 22, 2022. doi:10.1111/jocn.16424

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