Progressive chronic diseases presume a complex treatment plan that depends on the number of symptoms, their severity, and comorbidities. Drug management is an essential responsibility of the family caregiver of a palliative care patient, but has received limited attention in field research.
The aim of this study is to identify the complexity of the therapeutic plan followed at home by cancer or noncancer patients needing palliative care, and to assess its impact on the burden of the family caregivers.
This observational study was conducted at patient's admission in a palliative care department. The study involved cancer and noncancer patients and their primary family caregivers. To measure the care burden, the Burden Scale for Family Caregiver was used and for the complexity of the therapeutic plan, the Medication Regime Complexity Index.
Measures and Outcomes:
To measure the care burden, the Burden Scale for Family Caregiver was used and for the complexity of the therapeutic plan, the Medication Regime Complexity Index.
One hundred and forty patients were enrolled with their family caregivers: patients with nononcological pathologies (n = 63) and patients with cancer (n = 77). Caregiver's burden score is statistically significantly correlated with the complexity of the medical plan in both groups (P = 0.32 and P = 0.012 respectively). The average family caregiver's burden was significantly higher in the nononcological group (45 ± 14.45 vs. 36.52 ± 15.05; P = 0.001). The number of medications that family caregivers administer daily for patients without cancer is higher than in the other subset (8.25 ± 4.94 vs. 5.89 ± 4.93; P = 0.004). Opioids were more frequently used for pain control in cancer patients (5 vs. 72; P = 0.0001).
The caregiver's burden is high for nononcological patients. The complexity of the treatment plan (number of drugs and frequency of administration) is significantly correlated with the care burden. Further studies are needed to understand which interventions targeted on family caregivers will minimize the burden of care.