Determinants of caregiving experiences and mental health of partners of cancer patients

C Nijboer*, M Triemstra, R Sanderman, GAM van den Bos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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BACKGROUND. Research regarding informal caregiving showed considerable individual variation in responses to cancer caregiving. The current longitudinal study examined determinants of caregiver outcomes in terms of caregiver experiences at 3 months and caregiver's mental health at 6 months after hospital discharge. It included both negative and positive dimensions of caregiving outcomes.

METHODS. One hundred forty-eight patients with newly diagnosed colorectal carcinoma and their partners were included. Caregiver experiences were assessed by the Caregiver Reaction Assessment Scale, which contains four negative subscales (disrupted schedule, financial problems, lack of family support, and loss of physical strength) and one positive subscale (self-esteem). The mental health of the caregiver was assessed in terms of depression and quality of life. Possible determinants of the caregiver's experiences and mental health were categorized according to characteristics of the caregiver, the patient, and the care situation. Caregiving experiences were studied as a fourth additional category of possible determinants of the caregiver's mental health.

RESULTS. Each domain of the caregiving experience was explained by different factors, with total explained variances ranging between 11-46%. Negative caregiver experiences were associated with a low income, living with only the patient, a distressed relationship, a high level of patient dependency, and a high involvement in caregiving tasks. Caregivers with a low level of education and caregivers of patients with a stoma were able to derive more self-esteem from caregiving. Although caregiving may lead to depression, especially in those experiencing loss of physical strength, caregivers may sustain their quality of life by deriving self-esteem from caregiving.

CONCLUSIONS. It is important that professionals involved in the ongoing care of cancer patients and their families be aware of the increasing demands made on caregivers and the specific problems and uplifts they perceive in caregiving. Professional caregivers are urged to involve informal caregivers with care explicitly and continuously. However, specific attention to those caregivers who live only with the patient, those with a low income, those with a distressed relationship, and those with a high level of patient dependency and care involvement is warranted. Cancer 1999;86:577-88. (C) 1999 American Cancer Society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)577-588
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15-Aug-1999


  • cancer
  • partners
  • caregiving experiences
  • depression
  • quality of life

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