Poor patient health is associated with higher caregiver burden for older adults with advanced cancer

Wagahta Semere, Andrew D. Althouse, Ann Marie Rosland, Douglas White, Robert Arnold, Edward Chu, Thomas J. Smith, Yael Schenker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objectives: Family caregiver burden among older adults with advanced cancer remains poorly understood. We sought to (1) identify patient factors associated with caregiver burden and (2) examine how amount of time caregiving modifies these relationships. Methods: Cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from a cluster-randomized palliative care intervention trial including patients with advanced cancer and their family caregivers, recruited from 17 oncology practices in Pennsylvania. Caregiver burden was measured using Zarit Burden Interview (ZBI-12; range 0–48). Patient factors included functional status (Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group), symptom burden (Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale), anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), and quality of life (Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy – Palliative Care). Using adjusted multivariable regression, we analyzed (1) independent associations between patient factors and caregiver burden and (2) how weekly caregiving hours modified these relationships. Results: Among 441 patient-caregiver dyads, mean patient age was 70 ± 10 and caregiver age was 62 ± 13 years. Most caregivers (59%) were patients' partners. Caregivers reported 44.5 ± 53.5 average hours spent caregiving weekly; mean ZBI-12 scores were 10.3 ± 7.3. Worse patient functional status (β = 4.20, p < 0.01), poorer quality of life (β = −0.07, p < 0.01), more anxiety (β = 0.33, p < 0.01) and depression (β = 0.33, p < 0.01) were associated with higher caregiver burden; caregiving hours did not affect these relationships. Conclusions: In advanced cancer, poor patient physical and mental health is associated with higher caregiver burden regardless of hours caregiving; future studies should examine interventions tailored to alleviate caregiver burden for this group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-778
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Geriatric Oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Advanced cancer
  • Caregiver burden
  • Caregiving
  • Older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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