Relationships among Symptom Management Burden, Coping Responses, and Caregiver Psychological Distress at End of Life

Karla T. Washington, Chelsey M. Wilkes, Christopher R. Rakes, Sheila J. Otten, Debra Parker Oliver, George Demiris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Background: Family caregivers (FCGs) face numerous stressors and are at heightened risk of psychological distress. While theoretical explanations exist linking caregiving stressors with outcomes such as anxiety and depression, limited testing of these theories has occurred among FCGs of patients nearing the end of life. Objective: Researchers sought to evaluate mediational relationships among burden experienced by hospice FCGs because of symptom management demands, caregivers' coping responses, and caregivers' psychological distress. Design: Quantitative data for this descriptive exploratory study were collected through survey. Hypothesized relationships among caregiver variables were examined with structural equation modeling. Setting/Subjects: Respondents were FCGs (N = 228) of hospice patients receiving services from a large, non-profit community hospice in the Mid-Southern United States. Results: Burden associated with managing hospice patients' psychological symptoms was shown to predict psychological distress for FCGs. Caregivers' use of escape-avoidance coping responses mediated this relationship. Conclusions: Results suggest that FCGs would benefit from additional tools to address patients' psychological symptoms at end of life. When faced with psychological symptom management burden, caregivers need a range of coping skills as alternatives to escape-avoidance coping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1234-1241
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • anxiety
  • caregiver
  • depression
  • family
  • hospice


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