Factors Associated with Caregiver Burden Among Caregivers of Terminally Ill Patients with Cancer

In the future, the task of caring for dying patients will probably shift increasingly from medical personnel to family and friends because so many people prefer not to die in a hospital. The resulting burden is likely to take a toll on the caregivers' health. This study surveyed 206 primary caregivers at Connecticut's largest inpatient hospice facility in 1999 and 2000, questioning them about their experience during the month before the patient was admitted to the hospice. Surprisingly, the individuals who felt the most burdened were not those who had to do the most for the patient, it was the caregivers who had to cut back on their own daily activities, those with scant social networks and younger people, most of whom were caring for a parent. The authors speculate that the young were more likely to be juggling family responsibilities as well as caregiving. They suggest that doctors consider the caregiver's need for social support when planning end-of-life care. This is one of the rare studies to focus on caregivers for patients with terminal, rather than chronic, disorders.