Needs-focused interventions for family caregivers of older adults with cancer: a descriptive interpretive study



Although family caregivers (FCs) of older adults with cancer (OACs) provide invaluable assistance by fulfilling multiple tasks along the cancer trajectory, evidence suggests that their needs are poorly assessed, and there is a scarcity of supportive interventions that influence their well-being. Viewing these issues as opportunities for improvement, we conducted this qualitative study to understand FCs’ needs and identify promising needs-focused interventions.


This descriptive interpretive qualitative study was conducted in Quebec, Canada, in a French Canadian Oncology Clinic. Participants were FCs who were spouses or adult children (n = 25) of OACs aged 70 years or older. Data were collected via focus groups and were analyzed using an ongoing analytic process following each interview.


Three types of needs were of particular importance: information, relationships between FC and others, and care for oneself. The need for information was described in terms of the content, timeliness, and modalities in which information should be verbalized and delivered. The need for relationships specifically targeted health care providers (HCPs), family members, and OACs. The need to care for oneself was recognized as important throughout the cancer trajectory but also represented a challenge. Participants proposed innovative ideas for interventions, resources, and strategies for each type of need.


According to our results, HCPs should systematically include FCs into OACs’ care plan through the use of concrete actions such as the “family systems approach” suggested by Duhamel, and integrate a systematic FC’s needs assessment.

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We are grateful to the family caregivers for their participation.


This study was made possible by grants from the Ordre des Infirmières et Infirmiers du Québec (OIIQ), the Quebec Nursing Intervention Research Network (RRISIQ) and FRQ-S, the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of Université de Sherbrooke, the Centre de Recherche Hôpital Charles-Le Moyne, and Professor Dominique Tremblay’s research program on complex interventions in oncology.

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Correspondence to Dominique Tremblay.

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All procedures related to the ethical standards of the institutional research committee were respected. Protocol AA-HCLM-14-009 and consent forms were submitted and approved by the hospital ethical review board. Written informed consents were obtained from all study participants.

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The authors declare that they have no competing interest.

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Marcotte, J., Tremblay, D., Turcotte, A. et al. Needs-focused interventions for family caregivers of older adults with cancer: a descriptive interpretive study. Support Care Cancer 27, 2771–2781 (2019).

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  • Family caregivers
  • Older adults
  • Cancer
  • Oncology
  • Needs
  • Interventions