How can informal caregivers in cancer and palliative care be supported? An updated systematic literature review of interventions and their effectiveness

Palliat Med. 2012 Jan;26(1):7-22. doi: 10.1177/0269216311409613. Epub 2011 Jul 7.


Introduction: Informal caregivers needs in cancer/advanced disease are largely unmet. The science of carer intervention evaluation is methodologically challenging, and the evidence historically weak.

Objective: This systematic review updates an earlier effectiveness review to determine both the effectiveness of subsequently published intervention studies, and the current state of science.

Method: The evidence was identified and appraised using a comprehensive search strategy. Articles were searched from 2001 to 2010 using the following electronic databases: Medline, PsychINFO and CINAHL. Inclusion criteria were studies reporting intervention data for informal adult caregivers of a patient with a diagnosis of cancer or receiving palliative care. The design and evidence rigour were assessed using the Jadad Rating Scale, and the Quality Rating Scale.

Results: 33 studies met inclusion criteria. From the original review, an encouraging increase was identified in the number of evaluations (from 8 to 33), in carer-specific interventions (from 6 to 17) and in the robustness of the study design (an increase from 2 to 12 studies with before/after measures, comparison groups and prospective data).

Conclusions: The evidence suggests a rapid increase in the number of robust intervention studies. However, the range of models remains narrow in relation to caregivers' needs and preferences.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Home Care Services / organization & administration*
  • Home Care Services / standards
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / nursing*
  • Palliative Care / standards*
  • Social Support*