Caregiver Support May Reduce Psychological Distress

Direct caregiver support was found to be more beneficial than providing patient care support

FRIDAY, June 17 (HealthDay News) -- The psychological distress of caring for a friend or relative with a terminal disease may be reduced if informal caregivers receive direct support, although the quality of evidence is low, according to a review published in the June issue of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Bridget Candy, from the Royal Free & University College Medical School in London, and colleagues reviewed available literature until 2010 to investigate whether supportive interventions, either directly or through patient care, improved the psychological and physical health of informal caregivers of patients with a terminal disease. The analysis included 11 randomized controlled trials with 1,836 caregiver participants. Adverse effects were compared between participants who received intervention and those who did not.

The investigators found that interventions that directly supported the caregiver resulted in a significant reduction of short-term psychological distress with marginal improvements in coping skills and quality of life, but the quality of evidence was low. Only one study assessed physical outcomes and found no difference in sleep improvement. Although no study measured health service use or adverse outcomes, higher levels of family conflict were identified in a subgroup analysis from one study. Patient support did not significantly reduce caregivers' psychological distress, and its effect on caregivers' ability to cope, quality of life, service use, or adverse outcomes could not be assessed. Based on one study there was no difference in caregiver physical health when the patient received or did not receive additional care.

"These findings suggest that practitioners should inquire about the concerns of caregivers and should consider that they may benefit from additional support," the authors write.

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