Objectives: Cirrhosis and hepatic encephalopathy (HE) can adversely affect survival, but their effect on socioeconomic and emotional burden on the family is not clear. The aim was to study the emotional and socioeconomic burden of cirrhosis and HE on patients and informal caregivers.
Methods: A cross-sectional study in two transplant centers (Veterans and University) of cirrhotic patients and their informal caregivers was performed. Demographics for patient/caregivers, model-for-end-stage liver disease (MELD) score, and cirrhosis complications were recorded. Patients underwent a cognitive battery, sociodemographic, and financial questionnaires. Caregivers were given the perceived caregiver burden (PCB; maximum=155) and Zarit Burden Interview (ZBI)-Short Form (maximum=48) and questionnaires for depression, anxiety, and social support.
Results: A total of 104 cirrhotics (70% men, 44% previous HE, median MELD 12, 49% veterans) and their caregivers (66% women, 77% married, relationship duration 32±14 years) were included. Cirrhosis severely impacted the family unit with respect to work (only 56% employed), finances, and adherence. Those with previous HE had worse unemployment (87.5 vs. 19%, P=0.0001) and financial status (85 vs. 61%, P=0.019) and posed a higher caregiver burden; PCB (75 vs. 65, P=0.019) and ZBI (16 vs. 11, P=0.015) compared with others. Cognitive performance and MELD score were significantly correlated with employment and caregiver burden. Veterans and non-veterans were equally affected. On regression, depression score, MELD, and cognitive tests predicted both PCB and ZBI score.
Conclusions: Previous HE and cognitive dysfunction are associated with worse employment, financial status, and caregiver burden. Cirrhosis-related expenses impact the family unit's daily functioning and medical adherence. A multidisciplinary approach to address this burden is required.