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06.03.2019 | Original Article

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

Supportive Care in Cancer
Gil Goldzweig, L. Schapira, L. Baider, J. M. Jacobs, E. Andritsch, Y. Rottenberg
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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.

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