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Online Exclusive Article

Impact of Patient Smoking Behavior on Empathic Helping by Family Caregivers in Lung Cancer

Michelle M. Lobchuk
Susan E. McClement
Christine J. McPherson
Mary Cheang
ONF 2012, 39(2), E112-E121 DOI: 10.1188/12.ONF.E112-E121

Purpose/Objectives: To test the impact of patient smoking behavior on family caregiver judgments of responsibility, emotions, empathic responses, and helping behavior.

Design: Structural equation modeling.

Setting: Five oncology outpatient settings in Canada.

Sample: 304 dyads consisting of patients with lung cancer and their primary caregivers.

Methods: Self-report questionnaires, abstracted medical record data, confirmatory factor analysis, and structural equation modeling.

Main Research Variables: Smoking history, judgments of responsibility for controlling the disease, anger, pride, empathic responses, and helping behaviors.

Findings: The impact of patient smoking behavior on caregiver help was mediated by caregiver judgments of responsibility, affective reactions of anger and pride, and empathic responses by caregivers.

Conclusions: When patients continued to engage in smoking behavior, despite a diagnosis of lung cancer, caregivers tended to ascribe more responsibility and feel more anger and less pride in the patients' efforts to manage the disease, therefore placing caregivers at risk for less empathy and helping behavior.

Implications for Nursing: Caregiver blame and anger must be assessed, particularly when the patient with lung cancer continues to smoke. If caregiver judgments of blame and anger are evident, then an attribution approach is indicated involving a dialogue between the caregiver and the patient, with the aim of enhancing the caregiver's understanding of how negative attributions and linked emotions impact his or her ability to engage in empathic helping behaviors.

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