Symptom Management Experience of End-of-Life Family Caregivers: A Population-Based Study



      In the United States, 30% of all deaths occur at home. Effective symptom management is integral to quality end-of-life (EOL) care. Family caregivers play a major role in EOL symptom management. Recent federal policies emphasize the need to improve training and support for family caregivers.


      In a nationally representative sample: 1) Characterize the population of caregivers assisting with and reporting difficulty in symptom management at the end of life; and 2) Assess caregiver and care recipient characteristics associated with caregiver report of difficulty.


      Cross-sectional analysis of data from the National Health and Aging Trends Study and National Study of Caregiving. Multivariable logistic regression to assess association between care recipient and caregiver characteristics and caregiver report of difficulty.


      Caregivers (n = 214) were mean age 57.1 years, 74% female, and 86% white non-Hispanic. Over 2 million family caregivers provided assistance with symptom management in the last month of life in 2017; 78% reported difficulty. Non-Hispanic Black caregivers (aOR 0.24, 95% CI 0.08–0.75), Hispanic caregivers (0.13, 0.03–0.56), and caregivers with lower than high school education (0.26, 0.11–0.63) were less likely to report difficulty. Caregivers of care recipients who received paid care (3.37, 1.30–8.69) were more likely to report difficulty. Receipt of training and support services (1.80, 0.83–3.93) and hospice (1.83, 0.82–4.07) were not associated with caregiver report of difficulty.


      These findings underscore the need to improve training and support for family caregivers in EOL symptom management.

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