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Qualitative Analysis of the Experience of Mental Fatigue of Family Caregivers of Patients With Cancer in Phase I Trials

Denise M. Weiss
Laurel L. Northouse
Sonia A. Duffy
Berit Ingersoll-Dayton
Maria C. Katapodi
Patricia M. LoRusso
ONF 2016, 43(4), E153-E160 DOI: 10.1188/16.ONF.E153-E160

Purpose/Objectives: To examine family caregivers’ experience of mental fatigue, identify strategies they use to manage it, and ascertain the kind of help they would like from healthcare professionals.

Research Approach: Descriptive, qualitative study that was part of a larger mixed-methods study.

Setting: Metropolitan comprehensive cancer center in the midwestern United States.

Participants: 79 family caregivers of patients with advanced cancer who were participating in phase I clinical trials.

Methodologic Approach: Caregivers completed a semistructured, open-ended questionnaire and demographic and health history forms.

Findings: Caregivers were able to define mental fatigue and give many examples of it. They reported that mental fatigue did not interfere with patient care, but that it did have a negative effect on their own self-care. They identified strategies to manage mental fatigue. They wanted more information and support from professionals.

Conclusions: The majority of caregivers experienced mental fatigue, which manifested as trouble concentrating, difficulty remembering things, and irritability. The majority worked outside of the home and had health problems of their own.

Interpretation: Healthcare professionals need to assess caregivers for mental fatigue and find ways to help them reduce mental fatigue and restore their attention. Nurses are in a prime position to mobilize resources for caregivers to effectively manage burden and reduce mental fatigue.

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