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Stress and Support in Family and Non-Family Relationships Within Hospice Cancer Survivor Social Networks (SCI954)

Background: Effective social support mitigates burden and distress experienced by cancer caregivers. Little research, however, investigates informal support within social networks of family caregivers of cancer home hospice patients, and how social stress may accompany this support. Research Objectives: We assessed patterns of support and stress within the social networks identified by family caregivers of cancer home hospice patients (N=90). Methods: We analyzed secondary data from a longitudinal multi-site study. Participants completed baseline measures including demographics (age, gender, race/ethnicity, marital status, employment, relationship to patient, length of caregiving) and self-report measures on caregiving (Rewards of Caregiving Scale, Caregiver Competence Scale, and Zarit Caregiving Burden Interview), overall mental and physical health, and perceived support and stress including the Duke Social Support and Stress Scale. Participants independently rated perceived levels of support and stress for up to six family members and four non-family members. Latent class analysis identified patterns in reported relationships, stress, and support, and. We then compared between-class differences in demographics and evaluated perceived health and caregiving burden. Results: Three types of social networks were identified: supportive (high support, low stress across family/non-family network), ambivalent maximizers (high support, high stress across family/non-family network), and family-focused ambivalent (high support, high stress across family network only). Groups differed by ethnicity, employment status, relationship to patient, and caregiving burden (p<0.05). Conclusion Social support is nuanced and may coexist with stress within the relationships and networks of hospice family caregivers. A better understanding of caregivers' social networks and the support and stress associated with those relationships can inform how hospice providers facilitate meeting caregivers' needs within these informal networks. Implications for Research, Policy, or Practice: Service providers should assess for the potential for hospice caregivers' support relationships to include both stress and support. Knowing this will help providers address unmet needs.

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Journal Of Pain And Symptom Management
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