Charles S. Carver

Kim, Y., Carver, C. S., Shaffer, K. M., Gansler, T., & Cannady, R. S. (2015). Cancer caregiving predicts physical impairments: Roles of earlier caregiving stress and being a spousal caregiver. Cancer, 121, 302-310.

Background: This study aimed to investigate associations between earlier caregiving experience and the development of physical impairments over the subsequent six years among family cancer caregivers. Methods: Family caregivers of cancer survivors participated in a nationwide survey two years after their relative’s cancer diagnosis (T1: N=1,517) and follow-ups at five (T2) and eight (T3) years post-diagnosis. Caregivers self-reported demographics and level of caregiving stress at T1. Caregiving status (“former” for those whose patient was remission, “bereaved” for those whose patient had died, and “current”) and presence of three physical impairments (arthritis, chronic back pain, and heart-related diseases) at the time of assessment were measured at T1 through T3. Results: Caregiving stress was significantly related to concurrent presence of the three impairment markers at T1. Stressed caregivers were also more likely to develop heart diseases and spousal caregivers were more likely than other caregivers to develop arthritis and chronic back pain several years after the initial caregiving experience (T2 and T3). These effects were independent of age, gender, education, and income at T1, and caregiving status at each assessment. Conclusions: Findings suggest that the adverse long-term health effects of earlier caregiving stress and of being a spousal caregiver should be acknowledged and caregiving-related stress management programs be incorporated into routine health care for family caregivers of cancer patients.

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