Communication between Advanced Cancer Patients and Their Family Caregivers: Relationship with Caregiver Burden and Preparedness for Caregiving

Amy K. Otto, Dana Ketcher, Richard E. Heyman, Susan T. Vadaparampil, Lee Ellington, Maija Reblin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Cancer impacts spouse caregivers, especially when couples engage in dyadic coping around the cancer. Communication is a key factor in this process. Our goals were to describe cancer-related communication between advanced cancer patients and their spouse caregivers, and to describe how dyadic communication patterns are related to caregivers’ reported burden and preparedness for caregiving. Caregivers completed measures of caregiver burden and preparedness for caregiving. Then, the patient and caregiver were asked to interact with each other in two structured discussions: a neutral discussion and a problem discussion focused on cancer. Discussions were coded using the Rapid Marital Interaction Coding System (RMICS2). Caregivers reported moderate levels of preparation and burden. Greater caregiver hostility communication predicted higher levels of caregiver burden, whereas greater caregiver dysphoric affect communication predicted lower levels of caregiver burden. Whereas positivity was more common than hostility in couples’ communication, patient hostility was a significant predictor of caregiver preparedness. Patient neutral constructive problem discussion was also associated with increased caregiver preparedness. Caregiver outcomes are an understudied component to dyadic cancer research. Our paper describes observational data on cancer-related communication between caregivers and advanced cancer patients and communication’s influence on caregiver outcomes. This work provides the foundation for future evidence-based communication interventions that may influence both patient and caregiver outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHealth Communication
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication

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