The supportive care needs of regional and remote cancer caregivers

Research Snapshots of Health Systems and Behavioural Research

What is known?

As cancer survival rates continue to increase, so will the demand for care and support from family and friends. Caregivers can experience significant physical and emotional difficulties while supporting loved ones with cancer. Understanding the needs of cancer caregivers is important, particularly for those living in more isolated, regional or remote areas with less support services, however, little is known about their specific needs and challenges.

What is new?

In this study we found that cancer caregivers living in regional and remote Australia need practical support with travelling to treatment, financial losses, and household responsibilities and support to manage their emotional wellbeing and concerns about the person they provide care for. Overall, younger caregivers and female caregivers had the highest levels of need. Younger regional and remote caregivers require extra family and social support, and assistance with interactions with healthcare providers. Older caregivers need more assistance with managing their own health problems. After the first six months since diagnosis, regional and remote cancer caregivers might benefit from help with relaxation and their personal needs. Caregivers of those with head and neck cancer, or other less common cancers, may require additional emotional support.

What does this mean?

To maintain the capacity of informal caregivers to look after our growing population of cancer survivors, improved support mechanisms need to be implemented to assist regional and remote caregivers in practical, financial, social and emotional domains. The most important needs to address vary according to caregiver age, patient cancer type and time since diagnosis.

Contact: Belinda Goodwin

Reference: Stiller A, Goodwin BC, Crawford-Williams F, March S, Ireland M, Aitken JF, Dunn J, Chambers SK. The supportive care needs of regional and remote cancer caregivers. Current Oncology. 2021; 28(4):3041-3057. doi: 10.3390/curroncol28040266.

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