This article was originally published here
BMC Cancer. 2021 Oct 20;21(1):1127. doi: 10.1186/s12885-021-08865-7.
BACKGROUND: Caregivers are invaluable sources of support for individuals recovering from head and neck cancer (HNC). Accordingly, minimizing caregiver distress is essential to promote the well-being of both caregivers and their patients. This study assessed if psychosocial distress (i.e., anxiety and depression) among HNC caregivers is associated with a difference in how caregivers and their patients perceive patients’ quality of life (QOL) after treatment completion.
METHODS: Caregivers’ and patients’ perceptions of patient QOL were assessed using the University of Washington QOL Questionaire (UWQOL), a validated HNC-specific health-related QOL questionnaire. The survey is interpreted in terms of its two composite scores: a physical QOL score and a social-emotional QOL score with higher scores indicating better QOL. Caregiver anxiety was assessed using the Generalized Anxiety Questionaire-7 (GAD-7) and caregiver depression was assessed using the Patient Health Questionaire 8 (PHQ-8). Patients completed the UWQOL as part of clinic intake while caregivers were asked to complete the UWQOL for their patients in addition to the PHQ-8 and GAD-7 in private. Linear regression was used to analyze the association between differences in caregivers’ and patients’ QOL scores (both social-emotional and physical QOL subscale scores) and GAD-7 and PHQ-8 scores.
RESULTS: Of 47 caregivers recruited, 42.6% (n = 20) viewed patients’ social-emotional QOL more negatively than patients themselves, while 31.9% viewed patients’ physical QOL more negatively. After controlling for covariates, differences in perception of social-emotional QOL (p = .01) and differences in perception of physical QOL (p = .007) were significantly associated with caregiver depression, but not anxiety. Caregivers who disagreed with patients regarding patients’ social-emotional QOL scored 6.80 points higher on the PHQ8 than agreeing caregivers. Caregivers who disagreed regarding patients’ physical QOL scored 6.09 points higher.
CONCLUSION: Caregivers commonly view patients’ QOL more negatively than patients themselves. These caregivers tend to have greater psychosocial distress than caregivers who agree with their patients. Interventions designed to identify and aid at-risk caregivers are critically needed. We propose screening for differences in perception of patient QOL as a way of identifying distressed caregivers as well as provider-facilitated communication between patients and caregivers as possible interventions that should be examined in future research.