Most Oncology Practices Do Not Screen for Caregiver Well-Being

Findings seen despite high rates of screening and referral for patients in distress
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FRIDAY, Sept. 29, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- The well-being of caregivers of adult cancer patients is often overlooked in cancer care, according to a study published online Sept. 21 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Chandylen L. Nightingale, Ph.D., M.P.H., from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and colleagues developed processes for identifying cancer caregivers and processes for distress screening and management among caregivers and patients in the community oncology setting. The analysis included responses from 111 supportive care leaders participating in the National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program.

The researchers found that 64.9 percent of respondents reported routine identification and documentation of informal caregivers, including in the electronic health record (63.8 percent). While nearly all respondents reported screening patients for distress (92.5 percent), only 16 percent routinely screened caregivers for distress. Despite wide availability of distress management strategies for caregivers and patients, only 12.6 percent of respondents routinely identified, screened, and had at least one referral strategy for caregivers with distress, while 90.6 percent routinely screened and had at least one referral strategy for patients. Caregivers were less likely to be documented among practices with a free-standing outpatient clinic (odds ratio, 0.29) and academic affiliation (odds ratio, 0.01), while higher oncologist volume was associated with an increased likelihood of recording caregiver information (odds ratio, 1.04).

"Caregiver well-being is crucial because there is evidence to suggest that happy and healthy caregivers provide better support and care to their loved ones, potentially leading to better patient outcomes and even reduced burden for our health care systems," Nightingale said in a statement.

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