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Physical and Psychosocial Health in Family Caregiving: A Comparison of AIDS and Cancer Caregivers


  • Kathleen M. Stetz is Professor, School of Health Sciences, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington. Marie-Annette Brown is Professor, School of Nursing, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.

Kathleen M. Stetz, School of Health Sciences, Seattle Pacific University, 3307 Third Avenue W, Seattle, WA 98119. E-mail:


Abstract  The objectives of this study were to compare cancer and AIDS family caregivers in regard to their physical and emotional health. The sample consisted of 26 caregivers of persons with cancer or AIDS. Study participants completed a questionnaire that included measures of depression, grief, symptoms of stress, caregiving demands, interpersonal relationships, health status, and quality of life. The data revealed that both AIDS and cancer caregivers reported high levels of stress and depression as compared to community norms. No significant differences were found between AIDS and cancer caregivers for any of the scale scores; however, the two groups differed on several individual subscales. Cancer caregivers demonstrated higher social functioning and were more likely to report that the work of caregiving itself disrupted their ability to socially engage with others. In contrast, AIDS caregivers were more likely to report that their own health limited their ability to socialize. Even though AIDS caregivers experienced less family support than cancer caregivers, they reported more rewards from caregiving. Results suggest that support delivered to caregivers emphasize a more inclusive approach to program delivery, versus a disease-specific perspective, in order to increase the depth and breath of services provided to families undertaking these challenges.