A previous review suggested that dysphagia is negatively associated with burden in caregivers of community-dwelling older adults. Other literature suggests similar patterns of burden may be found across adult patient populations. The current study, following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines, was conducted to determine the impact of dysphagia on caregivers of adults, regardless of etiology.
Five electronic databases were searched using terms based on a review by Namasivayam-MacDonald and Shune (2018) but included all adults rather than only older adults. Searches were limited to English-language empirical studies discussing caregiver burden, included caregivers of adult care recipients, had some care recipients with dysphagia, did not include palliative care, and published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The search yielded 1,112 unique abstracts, of which 17 were accepted. Across studies, caregiver burden was found to increase due to dysphagia in care recipients. Commonly reported dysphagia-related causes of burden included changes in meal preparation, disruption in lifestyle, effects on social life, lack of support, insertion of feeding tubes, and fear of aspiration. In general, dysphagia-related caregiver burden was a common experience across caregivers, regardless of patient population, caregiver age, and relationship between caregiver and care recipient. Meta-analyses suggest 71% of caregivers of adults with dysphagia experience some degree of burden.
These findings support that dysphagia negatively impacts caregiver burden and suggests sources of burden that clinicians can address within dysphagia management to support caregivers. However, more research is needed to better delineate sources of burden, especially those specific to various dysphagia etiologies, to better meet the needs of our patients.