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Preparing for partnerships in cancer care: an explorative analysis of the role of family-based caregivers

Background: Family-based ‘informal’ caregivers are critical to enable sustainable cancer care that produces optimal health outcomes but also gives rise to psychological burdens on caregivers. Evidence of psychosocial support for caregivers does not currently address the impacts of their role in providing clinical and health-related care for their loved ones. The present study sought to address this gap including with those from priority populations. Methods: Qualitative data was collected using focus group and interview methods. We purposively sampled caregivers identified as having a high burden of responsibility for providing clinical care including those from ethnic minority backgrounds, parental caregivers and those living rurally. Transcripts were subject to thematic analysis utilising a team-based approach. Results: Family-based caregivers included spouses (11), parents (7), children (1), siblings (1). Ten participants were from ethnic minority backgrounds and five participants were from regional or rural locations. Four resulting inter-related themes were; 1) Dual burden of providing clinical care and managing personal emotional distress; 2) Navigating healthcare partnership dynamics; 3) Developing a caregiving skillset, and 4) Unique supportive needs and barriers to access. These data provide evidence of the unique challenge of providing clinical care as part of family-based caregiving for a loved one with cancer, and the absence of support for caregivers to take up this role. Conclusion: Our findings highlight the substantial contribution of family-based caregivers to the provision of cancer care in contemporary health systems. Inadequate support for caregivers is apparent with regard to their role in providing clinical aspects of care such as medication administration and management. Support programs to prepare caregivers to provide clinical care while building capacity to manage their stressors and emotions through this challenging period may be valuable towards sustainable, person-centred care.

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Journal article
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BMC Health Services Research
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