Northouse, L.L., Katapodi, M.C., Song, L., Zhang, L., & Mood, D.W. (2010). Interventions with family caregivers of cancer patients: Meta-analysis of randomized trials. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 60, 317–339.doi:10.3322/caac.20081
To provide a meta-analysis that examines interventions delivered to family caregivers of patients with cancer in published randomized controlled trials and their effects on multiple caregiver outcomes
The final sample of studies used in the meta-analysis was 29, including a total of 3,495 subjects across all studies.
Appraisal Domain Results
Coping Resources Domain
Quality of Life Domain
Effect of Intervention Characteristics
Nurses participated in delivery of the intervention in about half of the studies examined. Interventions focused on three broad areas: patient caregiving, marital/family care, and caregiver care, although there was considerable variability in the emphasis of each area in all studies and many interventions focused mostly on the patient, with a peripheral addressing of caregiver needs. The meta-analysis noted there is a consensus that these are essential content for caregiver-focused intervention protocols. Many of the 29 studies used theoretical models to structure their protocols and had plans to assess integrity of the interventions. Interventions were found to not be effective in decreasing caregiver depression, perhaps a result of the type of cancer or high predominance of females in the 29 studies. On the other hand, interventions aimed at improving caregiver coping were more effective, particularly if the intervention included more sessions and lasted a longer time. Coping outcomes improved more often with face-to-face or group-delivered interventions and if the focus was on promoting active caregiver coping and reducing avoidance and denial behaviors. Although the meta-analysis showed a large intervention effect with decreasing caregivers’ need for knowledge (and most studies had a significant educational component), few studies measured caregiver change in knowledge as an outcome.
This meta-analysis of 29 studies, with variant use of theoretical models, offers insight into effective interventions that improve the life of cancer caregivers and those for whom they care for. Despite the diversity in interventions found in the studies, caregivers reported better outcomes in illness appraisal, coping resources, and quality of life following research study involvement. Positive and long-term intervention effects occurred for caregiver coping, self-efficacy, and distress/anxiety outcomes across all studies. Continued emphasis must be placed on weaving theoretical models throughout studies to generate hypotheses, select components of intervention to ensure integrity, and identify outcomes.