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Kaltenbaugh, DJ, Klem, ML, Hu, L, et al. Using web-based interventions to support caregivers of patients with cancer: A systematic review Oncol Nurs Forum. 2015;42:156-164.
Does web-based support benefit caregivers of cancer patients?
In the past, support for cancer caregivers has mainly happened over the phone or in person, using many different types of therapy. These types of support have been shown to improve mental health and well-being for caregivers. However, many caregivers cannot or do not use these support services because they can be time-consuming and expensive. New research is looking at the benefits of web-based support, which could potentially help support hard-to-reach groups such as informal caregivers.
The review included 6 studies of limited quality, with the number of caregivers included in each study ranging from 13 to 285. The majority of caregivers were female spouses of the patient with cancer, who had some experience using the Internet. All studies included caregiver support via the internet. One approach supplied reading materials, the others offered interactive components including tailored online modules, communication tools, training and coaching support, activities and discussion boards for caregivers. Five of the 6 studies measured the psychological benefits (eg. level of burden, mood, stress) of web support; one also measured social benefits. Physical benefits were also measured (1 study), as well as usability (2 studies) and feasibility (1 study).
Five studies found that web-based support helped improve some aspects of psychological health for caregivers, including mood, stress, burden, coping and quality of life. One study showed that web-based support reduced the social support needed from family, friends, and health care providers. The studies were all of limited quality, and the authors recommend more high quality research to learn more about the effects of web-based caregiver support.
Web-based support has the potential to benefit caregivers of cancer patients. More high quality research is recommended to better understand the benefits and best methods for web-based support.