Who will care for the caregiver? Distress and depression among spousal caregivers of older patients undergoing treatment for cancer

  • Gil GoldzweigEmail author
  • L. Schapira
  • L. Baider
  • J. M. Jacobs
  • E. Andritsch
  • Y. Rottenberg
Original Article



Although it is accepted that in general spousal caregivers of patients with cancer are under high emotional and physical strain, little is known about the quality of life specifically among spousal caregivers of older cancer patients. The aim of the current study is to explore the emotional toll of spousal caregivers of cancer patients aged 65–85 years.


This study surveyed 242 spousal caregivers of patients ≥ 65 years old, diagnosed with cancer, treated with curative or palliative intent, and within 6 months of treatment at enrollment. Standardized measures completed by the caregivers included depression measure (Geriatric Depression Scale); distress (Distress Thermometer); and social support (the Cancer Perceived Agents of Social Support). Logistic regression analyses were used in order to identify the predictor of clinical depression and distress. The analyses were adjusted for patient (sociodemographic, functional performance, and medical status) and caregiver (sociodemographic and social support) factors.


Among the caregivers, the frequencies of clinical depression and distress were 16.5% and 28% respectively. Increasing patient age and time from diagnosis were associated with reduced levels of caregiver depression. Higher levels of friends and spousal support (support from the patients) were associated with non-clinical levels of depression and distress.


Increasing patient age and caregiver’s perceived spousal support may both have a positive effect on caregivers’ levels of depression. This can be utilized by clinicians in the process of empowering older patients and their spousal caregivers to confront the challenges of cancer treatment into advanced old age.


Cancer Old age Caregiver Spouse Distress Depression 



This research was partially supported by the following:

1. A grant from the Organization for People Suffering from Cancer (“Verein für Krebskranke”), The Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria

2. A privet grant from Harold Michaels in memory of “Henriette Michaels, beloved wife and sister”.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Data control

The authors have full control of all primary data and they agree to allow the journal to review the data if requested.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Behavioral SciencesThe Academic College of Tel-Aviv YaffoTel-AvivIsrael
  2. 2.Stanford University School of MedicinePalo AltoUSA
  3. 3.Assuta Medical CenterOncology InstituteTel-avivIsrael
  4. 4.Department of Geriatrics and Geriatric RehabilitationHadassah University HospitalJerusalemIsrael
  5. 5.Division of Clinical OncologyThe medical University of GrazGrazAustria
  6. 6.Sharett Oncology InstituteHadassah University HospitalJerusalemIsrael

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