Original Article

Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 53-60

First online:

Predictors of postbereavement depressive symptomatology among family caregivers of cancer patients

  • Margot E. KurtzAffiliated withDepartment of Family Medicine, Michigan State University
  • , J. C. KurtzAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics, Michigan State University
  • , Charles W. GivenAffiliated withDepartment of Family Practice, Michigan State University
  • , Barbara GivenAffiliated withCollege of Nursing, Michigan State University

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The present study investigated two aspects of the sequelae of recent bereavement among family caregivers following the death of their cancer patient: (1) the extent to which depressive symptomatology among family caregivers measured following the death of their patient could be predicted by their levels of depressive symptomatology in the months prior to death, their physical health, the setting in which the patient's death occurred, patient age, gender of the caregiver, consanguinity, financial stress, social support from family and friends during the terminal stage, impact of caregiving activities on caregiver's daily schedule, caregiver optimism, perceived esteem attributed to caregiving, the time between the prebereavement assessment and death, and the time between death and the postbereavement assessment; and (2) whether these same explanatory variables could successfully differentiate those bereaved caregivers whose psychological health improved during the first 3 months following bereavement from those who did not improve. A sample of 114 family caregivers of cancer patients were surveyed for approximately 3 months before and 3 months after the death of their patient. A multivariate analysis of variance using the regression approach was undertaken to determine the primary predictors of postbereavement depressive symptomatology. In addition, a logistic regression analysis was used to attempt to predict those caregivers whose depressive symptomatology would improve during the postbereavement period. Critical factors in determining levels of postbereavement depressive symptomatology were caregiver optimism, prebereavement depressive symptomatology, and levels of social support from friends. Caregiver optimism and prebereavement depressive symptomatology were important in predicting whether caregivers' depressive symptomatology would improve or not. Physicians must be aware that if the social history of a patient reveals that he/she is anticipating or has recently experienced the loss of a family member for whom they were the primary caregiver, this information may be critical in determining whether the illness behavior exhibited by the patient has medical or psychosocial origins.

Key words

Family caregiver Bereavement Depression Cancer patients