Determining the Costs of Families’ Support Networks Following a Child’s Cancer Diagnosis
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BACKGROUND: Cancer in children may place considerable economic burden on more than individual family members. The costs incurred to families' support networks (FSNs) have not been previously studied. OBJECTIVES: The study objectives were to (a) identify and determine independent predictors of the direct and time costs incurred by the FSN and (b) explore the impact of these cancer-related costs on the FSN. METHODS: A prospective mixed-methods study was conducted. Representing the FSN, parents recorded the resources consumed and costs incurred during 1 week per month for 3 consecutive months, beginning 1 month following their child's diagnosis. Descriptive statistics, multiple regression modeling, and descriptive qualitative analytical methods were used to analyze the data. RESULTS: In total, 28 fathers and 71 mothers participated. The median total direct and time costs for the 3 months were CAN$154 and $2776, respectively, per FSN. The largest component of direct and time costs was travel and foregone leisure. Direct and time costs were greatest among those parents who identified a support network at baseline. Parents relied on their FSN to "hold the fort," which entailed providing financial support, assuming household chores, maintaining the siblings' routines, and providing cancer-related care. CONCLUSIONS: Families' support networks are confronted with a wide range of direct and time costs, the largest being travel and foregone leisure. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Families' support networks play an important role in mitigating the effects of families' costs. Careful screening of families without an FSN is needed.
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