Service Preferences Among Family Caregivers of the Terminally Ill
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OBJECTIVE: The ability of families to assume caregiving responsibilities is contingent on material, social, and professional support. Inadequate or inappropriate support to the terminally ill and their family caregivers can result in the misuse of resources and add burden to the family. In this report, we describe service preferences among informal caregivers of the terminally ill. DESIGN: Three hundred seventy-three caregivers participated in telephone interviews at two points in time: when the terminally ill person was designated as palliative and 5 months subsequent to the first interview. In the case that the care recipient died during the study period, the caregiver participated in the interview three months after the death. MEASURES: After reviewing possible services received by the care recipients and caregivers, caregivers were asked to identify the five services they found most valuable and which services they would have liked to have had or received more of when caregiving. RESULTS: The five services caregivers reported as most valuable included: in-home nursing care, (90.7%); family physicians, (45.6%); medical specialists, (46.4%); housekeeping, (23.6%); and, religious support, (11.3%). The five most frequently reported services that family caregivers would have liked to have received or had more available included: housekeeping, (13.1%); caregiver respite, (10.2%); in-home nursing care, (8.0%); personal support workers, (4.6%); and, self-help/support groups, (3.8%). Analyses revealed that most (64.8%) perceived service needs were of a supportive nature for caregivers. Caregiver perceptions of the value and perceived need of services were consistent over time and into bereavement. Logistic regression analyses suggested that younger caregivers who were not employed, reported higher levels of burden and cared for someone with a diagnosis of cancer had greater perceived service needs. CONCLUSIONS: The findings reported in this paper provide important insights into caregiver perceptions of valued services when caring for a terminally ill family member. These finding also highlight the stability of caregiver service perceptions over time and into bereavement.