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Family Caregiver Engagement in a Coping and Communication Support Intervention Tailored to Advanced Cancer Patients and Families

Bowman, Karen F. PhD; Rose, Julia H. PhD, MA; Radziewicz, Rosanne M. CNS, BC; O'Toole, Elizabeth E. MD; Berila, Rose A. MSN, RN

doi: 10.1097/01.NCC.0000343367.98623.83

We describe family caregiver (FCG) participation in a tailored coping and communication support intervention for advanced cancer patients and families. Preliminary descriptive data on characteristics and patterns of early engagement in the intervention for 132 FCGs are presented. Engagement assessed at an initial in-person meeting and the following 6 weeks includes problems raised, strategies used, and initiation, frequency, and mode of contact. A sizable proportion of FCGs were male, African American, and nonspouse. The FCGs had modest scores on a standard survey measure of burden yet volunteered caregiving demands as their primary problem. Other problems raised initially by more than 40% of the sample included psychological, practical, and communication with healthcare providers. Few reported physical and psychosocial difficulties. Engagement preferences expressed at the initial meeting largely mapped with actual engagement during the 6 weeks of intervention. Most FCGs were actively engaged during follow-up. Some (14%) did not opt for coping and communication support during this early treatment phase. This intervention is expected to affect quality of care and quality-of-life outcomes for FCGs over time from patient diagnosis to end of life. Findings will guide modification and dissemination of this intervention primarily in cancer clinics for the underserved.

Authors' Affiliations: Department of Sociology, Case Western Reserve University (Dr Bowman); School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University (Drs Rose and O'Toole); Louis Stokes Cleveland VAMC-GRECC (Dr Rose); Center for Health Care Research and Policy, Case MetroHealth Medical Center (Dr Rose); Department of Nursing, MetroHealth Medical Center (Ms Radziewicz); Department of Medicine, MetroHealth Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio (Dr O'Toole and Ms Berila).

Funding sources: National Cancer Institute, R01-CA10282; VHA HSR&D Merit, IIR-03-255; and American Cancer Society, ROG-04-090-01.

Corresponding author: Karen F. Bowman, PhD, Department of Sociology, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106-7124 (

Accepted for publication April 29, 2008.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.