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Home Hospice Family Caregivers’ Use of Audio Diaries and Reported Prevalence of Patient and Caregiver Symptoms

      Abstract

      Context

      Family caregivers are essential to home hospice care for patients with advanced cancer, including reporting patient symptoms to hospice providers for follow-up. Hospice caregiving can also impact personal well-being.

      Objectives

      1) Assess home hospice caregivers’ use of prospective, longitudinal audio diaries tracking patient and caregiver wellbeing; 2) Explore how patient-focused vs. caregiver-focused diary prompts perform; 3) Examine the prevalence of interactive voice response (IVR)-tracked symptoms and whether diaries revealed additional symptoms.

      Methods

      Caregivers (N=102) were asked to report patient and caregiver symptoms via daily IVR calls and could record optional diaries responding to patient-focused or caregiver-focused prompts. Diaries were transcribed, classified by presence/absence of new information, and compared by prompt type. Content coding for IVR-tracked symptoms and inductive coding for additional symptoms were summarized by frequency counts and exemplary quotes.

      Results

      Sixty-nine percent of participants (n=70) recorded diaries, and of these 72.86% (n=51) recorded ≥ one new-information diary. The median recording length was 53.00 seconds (SD=53.36). Participants responding to the caregiver-focused prompt (n=33) recorded more diaries than those in the patient-focused group (n=37; U=437.500, P=0.04. Most prevalent IVR-tracked symptoms were patient fatigue/weakness (26.54% of symptoms mentioned) and pain (23.08%), and caregiver anxiety/nervousness (47.51%) and fatigue (22.10%). The most prevalent additional symptoms were patient increasing sleepiness/sleeping (26.32%) and breathing difficulties (24.32%), and negative caregiver emotions (e.g., guilt, resentment, anger; 29.17%).

      Conclusion

      Prospective audio diaries offer a viable avenue for communicating symptoms and support needs. Future research will focus on leveraging longitudinal data for developing focused and tailored caregiver support interventions.

      Key Words

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