Palliative family caregivers appear to experience the rewards of caregiving concurrent with burdens and negative feelings. Relatively few studies have attended to the positive and rewarding aspects in palliative family caregiving. In addition, most studies on rewards are retrospective and examine the experiences of bereaved family caregivers. The present study aimed at describing feelings of reward among family caregivers during ongoing palliative care. A further aim was to compare the experience of rewards in relation to sex and age.
Methods: The sample consisted of 125 family caregivers and took place in three specialist palliative care units and one hematology unit. Participants answered a questionnaire including demographic background questions and the Rewards of Caregiving Scale (RCS). Descriptive statistics were employed to describe characteristics of the participants and the level of rewards. A Mann–Whitney U test was used to compare differences between groups of different sex and age.
Results: Palliative family caregivers reported general high levels of reward. The greatest source of rewards involved feelings of being helpful to patients. This was closely followed by giving something to patients that brought them happiness and being there for them. The smallest sources of rewards were related to personal growth, self-satisfaction, and personal meaning. There was also an association between rewards and age but not between men and women.
Significance of results: Family caregivers experienced the rewards of caregiving during ongoing palliative care despite their unique and stressful situation. Feelings of reward seem to be about handling a situation in a satisfying way, feeling competent and confident to take care of the patient and thereby feeling proud. Support could preferably be designed to improve a family caregiver's ability to care and to facilitate the positive aspects and rewards of caregiving and focus on strengths and resources.