Purpose: We examined the effects of an enhanced informal caregiver training (Enhanced-CT) protocol in cancer symptom and caregiver stress management to caregivers of hospitalized cancer patients.
Methods: We recruited adult patients in oncology units and their informal caregivers. We utilized a two-armed, randomized controlled trial design with data collected at baseline, post-training, and at 2 and 4 weeks after hospital discharge. Primary outcomes were self-efficacy for managing patients' cancer symptoms and caregiver stress and preparedness for caregiving. Secondary outcomes were caregiver depression, anxiety, and burden. The education comparison (EDUC) group received information about community resources. We used general linear models to test for differences in the Enhanced-CT relative to the EDUC group.
Results: We consented and randomized 138 dyads: Enhanced-CT = 68 and EDUC = 70. The Enhanced-CT group had a greater increase in caregiver self-efficacy for cancer symptom management and stress management and preparation for caregiving at the post-training assessment compared to the EDUC group but not at 2- and 4-week post-discharge assessments. There were no intervention group differences in depression, anxiety, and burden.
Conclusion: An Enhanced-CT protocol resulted in short-term improvements in self-efficacy for managing patients' cancer symptoms and caregiver stress and preparedness for caregiving but not in caregivers' psychological well-being. The lack of sustained effects may be related to the single-dose nature of our intervention and the changing needs of informal caregivers after hospital discharge.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00938769.
Keywords: Caregiver training; Family caregivers; Hospital discharge; Symptom management.