Who's caring for whom? Differing perspectives between seriously ill patients and their family caregivers

Joshua M. Hauser, Chih Hung Chang, Hillel Alpert, De Witt Baldwin, Ezekiel J. Emanuel, Linda Emanuel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Although clinicians and researchers often rely on family members 'reports of a wide range of dying patients' symptoms and care preferences, available data indicate divergences between the two. We used a national sample to analyze patient-caregiver pairs to explore areas of concordance and non-concordance about physical symptoms, communication with physicians, caregiving needs, and future fears. We also assessed whether identifiable patient or caregiver characteristics were associated with nonconcordance. Our data were from a national, random sample of 988 terminally ill patients, of whom 893 had caregivers who were also interviewed. Frequencies and types of nonconcordance were computed for patient-caregiver pairs. Bivariate associations between patient and caregiver reports on each item were tested. Logistic and conditional logistic regression analyses assessed multiple predictors of nonconcordance for each item. Primary diagnoses included cancer (51.1 percent), heart disease (17.7 percent), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (10.7 percent), and other diseases (20.5 percent). The proportion of concordant reports among pairs of patients and caregivers ranged from 53 percent to 66 percent. Among pairs showing nonconcordant responses, caregivers reported higher levels of pain and disability than patients, lower caregiving needs, and different fears about the future. Few demographic or clinical predictors were associated with nonconcordance. Concordance between patients 'and their caregivers' responses ranged widely, and there were important areas of nonconcordant responses. When responses differed, patients were more likely to express concern about domains that might impose on caregivers, while caregivers were more likely to express concern about patients' physical suffering. Consistent sociodemographic or clinical predictors of nonconcordant responses were not found. These data suggest important ways that patient and caregiver reports of the same experience vary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-112
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Care preferences
  • Communication
  • Concordance
  • Nonconcordance


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