Waldron, E.A., Janke, E.A., Bechtel, C.F., Ramirez, M., & Cohen, A. (2012). A systematic review of psychosocial interventions to improve cancer caregiver quality of life. Psycho-Oncology. [Epub ahead of print]doi: 10.1002/pon.3118
To evaluate randomized, controlled caregiver-focused intervention studies intended to improve quality of life (QOL) in caregivers of adult patients with cancer
Mutliple phases of care
A variety of measurement instruments was used across the six studies, including the Caregiver QOL Index–Cancer in three studies, Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (version 3) and Short Form-36 Health Survey administered together in two studies, and Profile of Mood States–Short Form and Caregiver Strain Index administered together in one study. Two of six studies showed a statistically significant improvement in caregiver QOL at the first measurement interval. Effect sizes were available in four studies, with two showing no effect and two illustrating a small effect on caregiver QOL (Cohen’s d = 0.264 [Northouse et al., 2007] and 0.271 [Walsh et al., 2007]). The Northouse et al. (2007) study also illustrated a small effect on caregiver coping (d = 0.392), self-efficacy (0.261), and negative appraisal (-0.191). Studies with interventions to improve caregiver ability to communicate and provide education on coping and specific care skills had the most impact.
High attrition rates in studies of the caregiver population were again noted, as are seen in other studies and reviews. The review included an evaluation of the effect of attrition on results and noted no significant impact on results, but it should be noted that the six studies included in this review were selected for their rigor.
The small sample was limited to RCTs of which there are few in the literature (not a fault of this study’s methodology).
More and larger controlled intervention studies are needed to clarify not only which interventions support QOL improvements, but under what circumstances and timing. The authors noted that different approaches may be needed when providing intervention to female versus male spousal caregivers to significantly improve depression. Attention to the optimal format and timing of interventions during phases when distress and need for support may be high, as well as attrition rates due to scheduling and general caregiving burden, is needed.