Context: Individuals caring for patients with advanced cancer (caregivers) experience psychological distress during the patient's illness course. However, data on the prevalence of bereaved caregivers' psychological distress and its relationship with the quality of patient's end of life (EOL) care are limited.
Objectives: To describe rates of depression and anxiety symptoms in bereaved caregivers of patients with advanced cancer and to understand the relationship between these outcomes and patient distress at the EOL.
Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of 168 caregivers enrolled in a supportive care trial for patients with incurable lung and gastrointestinal cancers and their caregivers. We used the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale to assess caregivers' depression and anxiety symptoms at three months after the patient's death. Caregivers also rated the patient's physical and psychological distress in the last week of life on a 10-point scale three months after the patient death. We used linear regression adjusting for caregiver age, sex, randomization, and cancer type to explore the relationship between bereaved caregivers' depression and anxiety symptoms and their ratings of physical and psychological distress in patients at the EOL.
Results: Of the 168 bereaved caregivers, 30.4% (n = 51) and 43.4% (n = 73) reported clinically significant depression and anxiety symptoms, respectively. Caregiver ratings of worse physical (B = 0.32; P = 0.009) and psychological (B = 0.50; P < 0.001) distress experienced by the patient at the EOL were associated with worse depression symptoms in bereaved caregivers. Only caregiver rating of worse psychological distress experienced by the patient at the EOL (B = 0.42; P < 0.001) was associated with worse bereaved caregivers' anxiety symptoms.
Conclusion: Many bereaved caregivers of patients with advanced cancer experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, which are associated with their perceptions of distress in their loved ones at the EOL.
Keywords: Bereavement; advanced cancer; bereaved caregivers; depression and anxiety; psychological distress in bereavement.
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