Caregiving and bereavement outcomes are strongly influenced by socio-cultural context. Past research has found higher levels of caregiver burden and psychological morbidity in Portuguese compared to Brazilian caregivers. This study compared Brazilian and Portuguese family caregivers in palliative care to identify differences in psychological morbidity and caregiver burden and their relationship with psychosocial factors such as sociodemographic variables, circumstances of end-of-life care and dying, social support, family functioning, and perception of quality of care. Prospective data were collected from convenience samples of family caregivers in Brazil (T0 n = 60; T1 n = 35) and Portugal (T0 n = 75; T1 n = 29) at two separate time points—during caregiving (T0), and during the first two months of bereavement (T1). The study samples consisted mostly of women, offspring, and spouses. In both countries, family caregivers devoted most of their day to taking care of their sick relatives and reported a lack of practical support. Portuguese caregivers had higher levels of burden than Brazilian caregivers, and in both populations a greater burden was associated with more psychopathological symptoms. Higher caregiver burden among Portuguese caregivers was associated with the circumstances of death and the perceived lack of emotional support. Among Portuguese caregivers, symptomatology persisted during bereavement, reaching significantly higher levels of anxiety, somatization, and peritraumatic symptoms compared to the Brazilian sample. These results show differences between family caregiver samples in Portugal and Brazil during the bereavement process. Understanding the underlying cultural patterns and mechanisms requires future research.
The end-of-life trajectory of cancer patients in palliative care (PC) elicits an anticipatory grief (AG) process in family caregivers (FCs). Although widely recognized, AG lacks conceptual clarification. This study aims to qualitatively explore the experience of FCs of patients with terminal cancer to identify the core characteristics and the specific adaptive challenges related to AG in the context of end-of-life caregiving. Data were collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews conducted in a clinical sample of 26 FCs of cancer patients in PC. Findings from thematic analysis suggest that the AG experience is characterized by traumatic distress from being exposed to life-threatening conditions and the separation distress induced by loss anticipation and current relational losses, challenging the FCs to long-term emotional regulation effort demands. These results contribute to the conceptualization of AG and may inform intervention programs for the main challenges the FCs face when adjusting to loss during end-of-life caregiving.
OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to contribute to the validation of the Portuguese version of the Prolonged Grief Disorder Questionnaire-Predeath (PG-12), examining its psychometric properties, including factorial, discriminant, and predictive validity. The prevalence of predeath prolonged grief disorder (PGD) and its psychosocial correlates were also analyzed.
METHOD: The PG-12 was assessed in a sample of family caregivers (FCs) of oncological patients in palliative care. The factorial and discriminant validity of the PG-12 were evaluated by confirmatory factor analysis. The prevalence of predeath PGD was calculated and correlated with sociodemographic characteristics, perception of illness, intensity of care, coping, and caregiver burden. Prospective data were used to assess predictive validity.
RESULTS: The sample was composed of 94 FCs, mostly female (78.8%) and daughters (61.3%), with a mean age of 52.02 (SD = 12.87). The PG-12 has been shown to be reliable, to have high internal consistency, to be monofactorial in structure, and to be independent from depression, anxiety, and burden, although predeath grief influences these symptoms. In our sample, 33% met the criteria for predeath PGD. The circumstances and coping mechanisms are also correlated with predeath grief. The PG-12 has also been shown to be predictive of postdeath outcome.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: The PG-12 can be a useful screening tool for early identification of risk for maladjustment to loss among family caregivers.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This review aims to synthesize recent findings on anticipatory grief in caregivers, referring to its phenomenology, assessment and clinical interventions.
RECENT FINDINGS: Recent literature illustrates the wide scope of the current use of the term anticipatory grief, reflecting caregivers' experiences in different end-of-life trajectories. The anticipation of death is the distinctive aspect of anticipatory grief in the predeath grief continuum, encompassing several progressive losses, past and future. Recently developed assessment instruments capture key aspects of this experience, such as separation anxiety, anticipation of death and future absence of the person, denial and relational losses. Recent findings on prevalence of clinically significant predeath symptoms in caregivers range from 12.5 to 38.5%. Beyond personal and relational factors, difficult circumstances of end-of-life care significantly interfere in adjustment to anticipatory grief. Useful therapeutic interventions were identified, such as validation of grief feelings, increased coping and self-care, anticipation of future losses and reframing roles. However, rigorous interventional studies are needed to create guidelines and the manualization of specific therapeutic approaches to caregiver anticipatory grief.
SUMMARY: Findings suggest that anticipatory grief dynamics in different end-of-life trajectories should be recognized and adequately assessed. Clinical interventions considered useful to support anticipatory grief caregivers are presented, but further research is needed to verify effectiveness.