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Insomnia is a common, distressing, and impairing psychological outcome experienced by informal caregivers (ICs) of patients with cancer. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) and acupuncture both have known benefits for patients with cancer, but such benefits have yet to be evaluated among ICs. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary effects of CBT-I and acupuncture among ICs with moderate or greater levels of insomnia.
Participants were randomized to eight sessions of CBT-I or ten sessions of acupuncture.
Results highlighted challenges of identifying interested and eligible ICs and the impact of perception of intervention on retention and likely ultimately outcome.
Significance of the results
Findings suggest preliminary support for non-pharmacological interventions to treat insomnia in ICs and emphasize the importance of matching treatment modality to the preferences and needs of ICs.
The multidimensional burden that results from providing care to a patient with cancer is well documented and a growing number of psychosocial interventions have been developed to address this burden. None, however, target existential distress, a critical, common element — and potentially driving mechanism — of caregiver burden. Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy (MCP) is a structured psychotherapeutic intervention originally developed by our group to target existential distress and spiritual well-being among patients with advanced cancer. We are currently developing Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy for Cancer Caregivers (MCP-C). The objective of this qualitative study is to describe the application of MCP to the unique experience of caregivers of patients with advanced cancer.
A case study of a participant from an initial MCP-C group is presented, with a focus on the application of sources of meaning to the cancer caregiving experience.
The exploration of critical sources of meaning in the participant's life generally, and related to caregiving specifically, highlighted significant areas of growth, including an increased understanding of the historical context shaping her experience of providing care, the recognition of the need for improved self-care and reconnecting with meaningful activities, and the possibility for continued connectedness to others and the world, despite the limitations resulting from her husband's terminal illness.
Significance of results:
Existential distress is a critical and often overlooked element of burden among cancer caregivers. MCP-C is intended to target this component of burden and address this critical gap in the palliative care literature. Clinical trials are underway to evaluate the efficacy of MCP-C delivered over the Internet. Future studies are needed to evaluate the benefits of MCP-C for particularly burdened groups of caregivers, such as caregivers of patients with brain tumors and those undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantations, and to identify target points of delivery that will optimize the intervention's benefits.
The burden experienced by informal caregivers (ICs) of patients with advanced cancer is well documented. ICs are at risk for anxiety and depression, as well as existential concerns that arise when a loved one is facing a terminal illness. Few psychosocial interventions focus on existential concerns of ICs. However, a growing body of literature indicates that finding meaning in the experience of being an IC for a person with cancer has the potential to buffer against burden. The purpose of this study was to collect preliminary descriptive data regarding caregiver burden, meaning, and psychosocial service use to inform the adaptation of a meaning-centered intervention for ICs.
Twenty-five caregivers and 32 patients completed brief, anonymous questionnaires that asked about their role as a caregiver or their perception of their loved one as a caregiver, caregiver burden, and psychosocial service use.
Caregivers and patients identified anxiety and depression as top correlates of burden experienced by caregivers, whereas guilt, issues with role/sense of identity, and self-care were additional areas of concern. The majority of caregivers were not receiving psychosocial services, although they almost unanimously reported desiring services. A greater proportion of patients than caregivers believed that an intervention designed to enhance meaning would ameliorate burden, but, nevertheless, close to three quarters of caregivers reported interest in participating in such an intervention.
Significance of results:
These study findings provide further support for, at a minimum, engaging ICs of persons with advanced cancer in interventions that address existential issues, mental health, self-care, and service use. Such interventions are likely to improve the quality of life of both patients with cancer and their ICs.
Informal caregivers (ICs) are relatives, friends, and partners who have a significant relationship with and provide assistance (i.e., physical, emotional) to a patient with a life- threatening, incurable illness. The multidimensional burden that results from providing care to a patient with cancer is well documented, and as a result, a growing number of psychosocial interventions have been developed specifically to address this burden. The purpose of the present study was to characterize the state of the science of psychosocial interventions for informal cancer caregivers.
A comprehensive systematic review of interventions for cancer caregivers was conducted via an electronic literature search of publications between 1980 and January 13, 2011. A final sample of 49 interventions was reviewed in detail.
The interventions, which varied in terms of modality and patient population, fell into the following eight categories: psychoeducation, problem-solving/skills building interventions, supportive therapy, family/couples therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, complementary and alternative medicine interventions, and existential therapy. Benefits and disadvantages of each of the categories are discussed, with special attention given to studies that produced null findings.
Significance of results:
Beyond specific techniques, structured, goal-oriented, and time-limited interventions that are integrative appear to be the most feasible and offer the greatest benefits for ICs of cancer patients. Future studies are needed to examine the specific benefits and challenges of delivering interventions in alternative modalities (Internet, Skype) so that the needs of a greater number of ICs may be addressed.
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