Understanding what affects psychological morbidity in informal carers when providing care at home for patients at the end of life: a systematic qualitative evidence synthesis

Bayliss K, Shield T, Wearden A, Flynn J, Rowland C, Bee P, Farquhar M, Harris D, Hodkinson A, Panagioti M, Booth M, Cotterill D, Goodburn L, Knipe C, Grande G
Record ID 32018005233
Authors' objectives: Informal carers are central in supporting patients at the end of life, but this has substantial negative impacts on carers’ own mental health. When carers are unable to cope, this may affect their ability to support the patient and increase the likelihood of patient hospital admissions. Further, demographic changes mean demands for care at and before end of life are increasing and existing services will struggle to meet these demands. It is important to recognise carers as a vital resource and prevent adverse health outcomes from caregiving (and thereby limit their consequences). Large individual variation in the level of psychological morbidity from end-of-life caregiving suggests there is scope for interventions to improve carer mental health if we can understand the underlying factors. This meta-synthesis of qualitative studies aims to identify factors reported by carers as important to their mental health.
Authors' results and conclusions: Thirty-three eligible studies identified six themes encompassing factors perceived by carers to affect their mental health during end-of-life caregiving. These were: (1) the patient condition (including patient decline); (2) impact of caring responsibilities (including exhaustion, lack of time for own needs, isolation); (3) relationships (including quality of the patient–carer relationship); (4) finances (including financial concerns, impact on work); (5) carers’ internal processes (including loss of autonomy, lack of confidence, coping strategies); and (6) support (including lack of informal support, inadequacies in formal support information and care provision, limited collaboration, disjointed care). Reported strategies to improve mental health were linked to the final two themes, with suggestions on how to manage carers’ internal processes and build appropriate support. Findings correspond with literature 1998–2008, indicating consistency in factors affecting carers and adding validity to findings. A wide range of both internal and contextual factors may lead to psychological morbidity when caring for someone at the end of life. Future work within practice therefore requires a broad-based rather than narrow approach to sustaining and improving carer mental health. Future work within research requires collaboration between researchers and stakeholders within policy, commissioning, practice and carer organisations to develop solutions and assess their effectiveness. Further, researchers need to develop better models for factors affecting carer mental health and their interaction, to build a stronger evidence base and better guide interventions. We found six themes that indicate how caring for those at the end of life can affect mental health. These include: the impact of the patient condition and seeing the patient decline; the impact of caring responsibilities; carers’ relationship with the patient; finances; carers’ feelings and experiences such as lack of control or confidence when caring; and support from other family, friends and health-care professionals. Strategies to improve mental health were linked to the final two themes, including how to manage carers’ views and experiences of their situation and how to gain appropriate support. This study describes factors that lead to poor mental health and ways to improve mental health when caring for someone at the end of life. Further work is needed to use this information to inform policy and service delivery.
Authors' methods: Searches of MEDLINE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, PsycINFO, Social Science Citation Index, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, and Cochrane Qualitative Reviews 1 January 2009 to 24 November 2019 for empirical publications from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries in English/Scandinavian on factors affecting adult carer mental health during end-of-life caregiving in home settings. Systematic qualitative meta-synthesis in collaboration with a Public Patient Involvement carer Review Advisory Panel, included thematic synthesis, followed by a best-fit framework synthesis, informed by principles of meta-ethnography. Critical Appraisal Skills Programme Qualitative Studies Checklist was used. The review was limited to caregiving in the home setting and studies from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries published in English and Scandinavian. Identified papers predominantly considered carers of people with cancer, with little research into ethnic-minority perspectives. The review may therefore not fully encompass factors affecting carers of people with longer-term conditions, or those within other care settings, countries and population groups. We worked with six carers in a Review Advisory Panel to search for studies on carers’ experience published between 1 January 2009 and 24 November 2019 and identify common themes from identified studies. Themes were put into a table of themes and subthemes, assessed by the carers, and compared with other literature to identify factors that caused carers to have poor mental health, and ways to help carers feel better.
Project Status: Completed
Year Published: 2023
URL for additional information: English
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Full HTA
Country: England, United Kingdom
MeSH Terms
  • Terminal Care
  • Caregivers
  • Frail Elderly
  • Quality of Life
  • Home Nursing
  • Family
  • Palliative Care
  • Mental Health
Organisation Name: NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research programme
Contact Address: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health and Care Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK
Contact Name: journals.library@nihr.ac.uk
Contact Email: journals.library@nihr.ac.uk
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.