The Association of Caregiver Unmet Needs with Psychological Well-being of Cancer Survivors: An Application of Interdependence Theory
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Introduction: Cancer survivors continue to experience psychological distress and challenges in their daily lives long after the completion of treatment. Caregivers play a pivotal role in the lives of cancer survivors by providing support in various domains of their lives. The cancer experience between support persons and cancer survivors is intertwined. The interdependence theory will serve as a theoretical framework to guide the purposes of this study. Objective:The purpose of this research was to gain a better understanding of unmet needs of caregivers supporting long-term cancer survivors and explore how fulfilling the needs of caregivers influenced the psychological well-being of cancer survivors. Specifically, an emphasis was placed on exploring the level of dependence present in marital relationships, and how this impacted the relationship between caregiver unmet needs and the psychological outcomes of cancer survivors. Method: Data was drawn from The Cancer Support Persons’ Unmet Needs Survey (SPUNS) (Campbell et al., 2009) and The Cancer Survivors’ Unmet Needs Survey (SUNS) (Campbell et al., 2009). Regression models tested for significant interactions between caregiver unmet needs and factors influencing survivor dependence with psychological distress in cancer survivors. Results: Findings revealed main effects between caregivers’ depression, anxiety, and stress with the respective psychological outcomes in cancer survivors. Caregivers’ concerns about the future predicted elevated depression in cancer survivors. Caregivers with needs pertaining to information or emotions predicted higher anxiety in cancer survivors. Information needs, future concerns, and health care access and continuity needs of caregivers predicted higher survivor stress. Conversely, work and financial needs of caregivers predicted lower depression, anxiety and stress in cancer survivors. Significant interactions were found for caregivers’ concerns about the future by recurrence of diagnosis with decreased survivor anxiety, health care needs of support persons by recurrence of illness with increased survivor anxiety, caregivers’ personal needs by severity of illness with higher survivor anxiety, support persons’ emotional needs by severity of illness with lower survivor anxiety, caregivers’ emotional needs by severity of illness and decreased survivor stress, and finally, support persons’ health care needs by severity of illness with higher survivor stress. Conclusion: Findings did not fully support the hypotheses of this present study. Nonetheless, the significant results revealed in the findings would be useful to generate alternative hypotheses in future studies regarding interdependence, unmet needs and psychological well-being. The findings for the present study will also provide direction towards improvement in treating caregivers and cancer patients as a conglomerate, and inform programs, services and policies in cancer care.