Caregiving in clinical oncology

Carola Locatelli, Marcella Cicerchia, Lazzaro Repetto

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


More often family play a central role in providing support to the complex needs of cancer patients: there are 4.6 million Americans who care for someone with cancer at home. Informal caring may involve considerable physical, psychological and economic stresses. Several recent studies have examined the effect of caregiving on the health and well-being of cancer caregivers. These studies indicate that stress and demands associated with caregiving can cause problems and changes for caregivers in areas such as their psychological, physical, and financial well-being. This impairment has an important impact not only on the caregiver but also on the patient. We have to consider that caregivers who had high emotional distress in the course of illness had a significant negative effect on the adjustment of patients with cancer. Although many studies are set up to determine the link between the stressors in care-giving and the impact on the family caregiver and/or on the patient's outcomes, the results remained inconclusive. A range of supportive programmes for caregivers is being developed including psychological support and practical assistance. A recent (2011) and systematic review has detected an encouraging growth in the number of intervention studies that aim to improve outcomes for caregiver in cancer and palliative care and an improvement in the study designs used. However, this activity needs to continue to focus on mechanisms of intervention, powerful designs and a plurality of models and target populations/settings. There is an urgent need for health care providers and policy makers to recognize the pivotal role of family caregivers in patients' care and a need to view them as care partners establishing tailored training programs. These intervention programs should give to caregivers the knowledge and skills to manage the patients' changing needs, also should grant tax credits or compensation for the care they provide and for the financial damages they make. A concerted effort is needed to train health professionals about the needs of caregivers and the importance of assessing them as part of routine cancer care. Training programs should ensure that clinicians are prepared to work with caregivers, to understand their needs, and to recognize the range of responsibilities being asked of them. For the caregivers training should incorporate strategies that would help caregivers to develop positive lifestyle behaviors, effective coping skills, and ways to access resources. Improved patient outcomes, including early detection or better management of adverse effects, increased adherence to oral medication, would result in reduced health care use and costs. Respect to this topic we are performing a study aimed to demonstrate the mutuality of psychological distress in both cancer patients and their caregivers, by validation of a new assessment tool able to identify the risk factors to develop mental disorders in the caregivers' population. We need to integrate a different point of view beginning to consider the patient-caregiver dyad as a unit of care. If the patient-caregiver dyad is treated as the unit of care, we can promote important synergies that can increase the well-being of both patients and caregivers.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCaregivers: Challenges, Practices and Cultural Influences
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781626180307
Publication statusPublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Psychology(all)


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