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Familial caregivers are providing increasing amounts of care to advanced cancer patients. Increased understanding of caregivers’ needs is vital in providing necessary support to lessen caregiver burden and morbidity. Current literature has identified caregiver and patient needs at broad stages of the cancer trajectory; however, such broad stages may be too general to inform a practice of targeting specific interventions when they have the greatest utility. This study examines a variety of particular needs across a number of more discrete illness-related transition experiences specifically in the advanced cancer disease trajectory.
One hundred fifty-nine female informal caregivers of people with advanced cancer completed a needs assessment survey.
Analyses of these cross-sectional retrospective-report data reveal that cancer caregiver needs vary across specific key experiences occurring within the broader stages of illness identified by current literature. Furthermore, caregivers have unique needs during bereavement.
Significance of results:
Although the sample characteristics are demographically limited, this study provides preliminary evidence that the broad stages are not specific enough increments for effectively examining caregiver needs and supports the need for more precise distribution of cancer-related information at more discrete times in the illness course.
The needs of a person facing a serious illness such as cancer are very complex. Maslow argues that human needs arrange themselves in “hierarchies of pre-potency” such that the appearance of one depends upon prior satisfaction of more pre-potent needs. The most pre-potent of Maslow's needs are the physiological (e.g., maintaining homeostasis of oxygen, water). When these are not satisfied, as may be the case in a terminal cancer patient, no other needs are important. As long as those needs are satisfied, a patient or family member may be concerned about higher order needs such as the “safety” needs for predictability and orderliness that underlie the fear of the unknown often faced by newly diagnosed cancer patients. As long as these needs are met, one can hope that providers (as well as family and friends) will satisfy needs for affection and caring. And if these needs are met, one can seek to satisfy “esteem” needs such as the need for respect sought by many health care consumers today. Thus needs change as a patient's condition changes.
What are needs?
As discussed in Langley et al., Kano suggests that needs fall into three categories: expected, desired, and unexpected. And different types of needs have different effects on satisfaction. For instance, most patients and family members expect that they will be given the proper medication. Avoiding medication errors will not improve satisfaction, but making errors could devastate satisfaction.
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