Psychological and social profile of family caregivers on commencement of palliative care

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2011 Mar;41(3):522-34. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2010.05.006. Epub 2010 Dec 3.


Context: Palliative care services are required to support patients who have advanced, life-threatening, noncurable disease, and their family caregivers. Comprehensive psychological and social support for bereaved family members also is expected. However, recent systematic reviews have demonstrated significant gaps in evidence-based approaches for such support. Furthermore, a comprehensive understanding of the psychological and social response to the family caregiver role is required for support to be optimized.

Objectives: We sought to examine the psychological and social profile of family caregivers on commencement of receiving palliative care services.

Methods: A self-report questionnaire was administered to primary family caregivers of patients within two weeks of admission to three palliative care services in Melbourne, Australia. The questionnaire incorporated six instruments that measured 11 family caregiver-related psychosocial factors; four instruments that measured caregiver psychological distress factors; 14 mental health lifetime risk factors; and a sociodemographic questionnaire.

Results: Three hundred and two family caregivers participated. Nearly half (44%) of the caregivers had a probable anxiety and/or depressive disorder, with 40% scoring more than the cutoff score for probable anxiety and 20% scoring more than the cutoff score for probable depression. Additionally, approximately 15% of caregivers met the criteria for pre-loss grief, and around 10% reported moderate to severe levels of demoralization. Caregivers who had a probable anxiety and/or depressive disorder also reported higher levels of pre-loss grief.

Conclusion: This study provides further evidence of the prevalence of poor psychosocial well-being in this population. The results reinforce the need to develop suitable strategies for psychological and social support for family caregivers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia
  • Bereavement
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult