Caregivers' Descriptions of Sleep Changes and Depressive Symptoms

Patricia A. Carter

ONF 2002, 29(9), 1277-1283. DOI: 10.1188/02.ONF.1277-1283

Purpose/Objectives: To describe caregiver sleep and depression using caregiver narratives. To compare qualitative descriptions with quantitative scores.

Design: Descriptive, one-time, open-ended interview followed by structured sleep and depression questions.

Setting: Interview conducted in person or via telephone at caregiver's preference.

Sample: 47 caregivers of patients with advanced stage cancer. Caregivers had a mean age of 54 years, and most were female (81%), Caucasian (82%), and spouses (61%). They provided care for a mean of 24 months. Patients' diagnoses were lung cancer (36%), colorectal cancer (13%), or recurrences (51%).

Methods: Two cancer care sites in southern California provided participants. After consent, the researcher conducted interviews. The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression (CES-D) instruments were administered following interviews.

Main Research Variables: Sleep pattern changes and depression levels over time as defined by caregivers.

Findings: Caregivers described severe fluctuations in sleep patterns overtime and how these changes affected caregiver depressive symptoms. PSQI and CES-D scores matched narrative comments.

Conclusions: Caregivers' narratives suggest they suffer progressive sleep deprivation that affects their emotions and ability to continue as caregivers.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses must recognize the severe sleep problems experienced by caregivers and respond with interventions to increase sleep quality and decrease depression.

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