Background: Patients with end-stage renal disease often rely on unpaid caregivers to assist them with their daily living and medical needs. We characterized the degree to which patients enrolled in the Frequent Hemodialysis Network (FHN) trials perceived burden on their unpaid caregivers.
Methods: Participants completed the Cousineau Perceived Burden Scale, a 10-question scale previously developed in hemodialysis (HD) patients. Associations between baseline burden score and prespecified variables were evaluated using multivariable linear regression.
Results: Of 412 participants, 236 (57%) reported having unpaid caregivers. Compared to those without unpaid caregivers, these participants had greater comorbidity (Charlson mean 1.8 ± 1.8 versus 1.2 ± 1.7, P < 0.001), lower Short Form-36 (SF-36) Physical Health Composite (PHC) scores (median 33 versus 41, P < 0.001, higher Beck Depression scores (mean 16 ± 11 versus 12 ± 9, P < 0.001), and worse physical function. Median Cousineau score was 35 (interquartile range 20-53) (theoretical range 0-100). Over 50% felt their caregivers were overextended, yet 60% were confident that their caregivers could handle the demands of caring for them. Higher perceived burden was not associated with ability to be randomized. In adjusted analyses, Cousineau score was inversely associated with SF-36 PHC and Mental Health Composite scores and directly associated with Beck Depression score (each P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Most HD patients in the FHN trials perceived substantial burden on their unpaid caregivers, and self-perceived burden was associated with worse depression and quality of life. Evaluation of the effects of frequent HD on perceived burden borne by caregivers in the FHN trials will help to establish the net benefits/determents of these intensive dialytic strategies.