Racial Variation in the Cancer Caregiving Experience

A Multisite Study of Colorectal and Lung Cancer Caregivers

Published in: Cancer Nursing, v. 35, no. 4, July/Aug. 2012, p. 249-256

by Michelle Martin, Sara Sanders, Joan M. Griffin, Robert A. Oster, Christine Ritchie, Sean Phelan, Audie A. Atienza, Katherine L. Kahn, Michelle van Ryn

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BACKGROUND: As cancer care shifts from hospital to outpatient settings, the number of cancer caregivers continues to grow. Yet, little is known about the cancer caregiving experience. This gap in knowledge is especially evident for racially diverse caregivers. OBJECTIVE: This study, part of a multisite study of care recipients with either lung or colorectal cancer and their caregivers, examined the caregiving experiences of African American (AA) and white caregivers. METHODS: Caregivers were identified by cancer patients in the Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance consortium. Caregivers completed a self-administered, mailed questionnaire that assessed their characteristics and experiences. Analysis of covariance was used to compare racial groups by objective burden and caregiving resources while controlling for covariates. RESULTS: Despite greater preparedness for the caregiving role (P = .006), AA caregivers reported more weekly hours caregiving than whites did (26.5 +/- 3.1 vs 18.0 +/- 1.7; P = .01). In later phases of caregiving, AAs reported having more social support (P = .02), spending more hours caregiving (31.9 +/- 3.5 vs 16.9 +/- 1.9; P < .001), and performing more instrumental activities of daily living on behalf of their care ecipient (P = .021). CONCLUSION: Racial differences in the caregiving experience exist. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Nurses play a key role in educating cancer patients and their caregivers on how to effectively cope with and manage cancer. Because AA caregivers seem to spend more time in the caregiving role and perform more caregiving tasks, AA caregivers may benefit from interventions tailored to their specific caregiving experience.

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