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Cancer Health Center

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Family Caregivers in Cancer (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - Assessing Caregiver Needs

Caregiver assessment is done to find out if the caregiver needs support in the caregiving role.

Caregiver assessment helps the health care team understand the caregiver's everyday life, recognize the many jobs done by the caregiver, and look for signs of caregiver strain. Caregiver strain occurs when caregivers are not comfortable in their roles or feel they cannot handle everything they need to do. Caregiver strain may lead to depression and general psychological distress. If the caregiver feels too much strain, caregiving is no longer healthy for either the caregiver or the patient.

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A caregiver assessment should look at not only what the patient needs the caregiver to do, but also what the caregiver is willing and able to do. Caregiver strain may occur when the family caregiver does not have the knowledge needed to care for the patient. The health care team can support the caregiver in this area.

Family caregivers report many problems with their caregiving experiences. Assessment is done to find out what the problems are, in order to give the caregiver the right kind of support. Support services can help the caregiver stay healthy, learn caregiving skills, and remain in the caregiving role, all of which help the patient as well.

Some of the factors that affect caregiver strain:

  • The number of hours spent caregiving.
  • How prepared the caregiver is for caregiving.
  • The types of care being given.
  • How much the patient is able to do without help (such as bathing and dressing).

Caregiver well-being is assessed in several areas to find out what type of help is needed.

There is no standard tool for caregiver assessment. It may be different for each caregiver and family. Some of the factors assessed are culture, age, health, finances, and roles and relationships. Support services can then be chosen to help where the caregiver needs it.


Studies have shown that a family's culture affects how they handle the caregiver role. In some cultures, the family chooses not to get any outside help. Caregivers who have no outside help or help from other family members are usually more depressed than those who receive help from other sources.

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