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Promoting Enhanced Patient and Family Caregiver Congruence on Lung Cancer Symptom Experiences

Michelle M. Lobchuk
Lesley F. Degner
Dan Chateau
Donna Hewitt
ONF 2006, 33(2), 273-282 DOI: 10.1188/06.ONF.273-282

Purpose/Objectives: To test the effects of different perspective-taking instructional sets, gender, caregivers' personal histories with cancer, and caregiving relationship factors on family caregiver and patient perceptual agreement of symptom experiences of patients with lung cancer.

Design: Counterbalanced.

Setting: Thoracic oncology outpatient clinical setting in Canada.

Sample: 98 dyads consisting of patients with lung cancer and their family caregivers.

Methods: Data were collected on a one-time basis by employing an abbreviated version of the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale targeting lack of energy and worrying. Caregivers were randomized to one of six counterbalanced conditions of perspective-taking instructions.

Main Research Variables: Caregiver discrepancy scores, instructional sets (i.e., neutral, self-report, and imagine-self and imagine-patient perspective-taking), order effects, gender, caregivers' personal history with cancer, and caregiving relationship factors.

Findings: No order effects were found for the instructional sets. Instructions to imagine the patient's perspective over imagining how the caregiver would feel if he or she had cancer were most effective in enhancing the caregiver's ability to estimate the patient's lack of energy and worrying. Gender had no significant effects. The amount of patient-caregiver communication had a positive impact on the accuracy of caregivers' perspectives.

Conclusions: The patient-oriented instructions had a limited impact on enhancing patient-caregiver congruence on patient symptoms. This likely is related to the study's convenience sample of caregivers who appear to naturally engage in empathic processes of patient-oriented perspective-taking when they assessed and reported on patient symptom conditions.

Implications for Nursing: Further exploratory work should identify interpersonal conditions that negatively hamper the effects of caregiver perspective-taking on their reasonable understanding of patient symptoms.

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