Nick Dionne-Odom on Potential Explanations for Survival Rates in Patients with Caregivers

September 29, 2015
Nick Dionne-Odom, PhD

Nick Dionne-Odom, PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing, discusses potential explanations for decreased survival rates of patients with family caregivers.

Nick Dionne-Odom, PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing, discusses potential explanations for decreased survival rates of patients with family caregivers.

Based on a secondary analysis of a large, randomized controlled trial of an early palliative care intervention introduced at the time of advanced cancer diagnosis, Dionne-Odom and other researchers found that having a family caregiver was associated with decreased survival among patients. In addition, patients who were unmarried and did not have a caregiver tended to live longer.

The first explanation, Dionne-Odom says, is that patients with caregivers could be sicker, which is why they are more likely to reach out for support. There have also been studies on self-perceived burden in which patients feel like they are asking too much of their caregiver and are less likely to want treatment, or survival rates could be lower because of the type of healthcare the patient receives.

Dionne-Odom theorizes that unmarried patients without a family caregiver live longer because those individuals have a history of being self-reliant and independent. None of the explanations are supported by data, Dionne-Odom noted.