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Enhancing the cancer caregiving experience: Building resilience through role adjustment and mutuality

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the dyadic experience of caring for a family member with cancer. Particular attention was given to examine the relationship between dyadic perceptions of role adjustment and mutuality as facilitators in resilience for posttreatment cancer patients and family caregivers. Method: For this convergent parallel, mixed-methods study using grounded theory methodologies, 12 dyads were recruited from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Qualitative data collection focused on social interactions between cancer patients and their family caregivers to better understand and describe how post-treatment patients and caregivers create mutuality in their relationships, how they describe the processes of role-adjustment, and how these processes facilitate dyadic resiliency. Quantitative data collected through electronic survey included the Family Caregiving Inventory (FCI) for Mutuality Scale, Neuro QoL Ability to Participate in Social Roles and Activities, and Satisfaction with Social Roles and Activities-Short Forms, and Mental Health Continuum-Short Form (MHC). Results: Eleven participants were spouses. Twenty-two self-reported as Caucasian. The sample ranged from 35 to 71 years of age (Caregiver M = 53.7, Patient M = 54.3). Most of the caregivers were female (n = 8; 66.7%) and most of the patients were male (n = 9; 75%). Qualitative interview data illuminated two primary psychosocial processes relating to resilience, role adjustment and mutuality, as key facilitators for transformation and growth within dyadic partnerships coping with the challenges of cancer treatment and cancer caregiving. The FCI-mutuality score for patients (M = 3.65 ± 0.47) and caregivers (M = 3.45 ± 0.42) reflected an average level of relationship quality. Relative to participation in, and satisfaction with social roles and activities, patients (M = 50.66 ± 7.70, M = 48.81 ± 6.64, respectively) and caregivers (M = 50.69 ± 8.6, M = 51.9 ± 8.75, respectively) reported scores that were similar to the US General Population (M = 50 ± 10). Conclusions: New patterns of role adjustment and mutuality can assist with making meaning and finding benefit, and these patterns contribute to dyadic resilience when moving through a cancer experience. There are few interventions that target the function of the dyad, yet the emergent model identified in this paper provides a direction for future dyadic research. By developing interventions at a dyadic level, providers have the potential to encourage dyadic resilience and sustain partnerships from cancer treatment into survivorship. 

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Type of Reference
Type of Work
Journal article
Elsevier Ltd
Publication Year
Journal Titles
European Journal of Oncology Nursing
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