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Background: Hematologic malignancies (HM) are life-threatening cancers associated with high mortality, numerous symptoms, and lengthy hospitalizations. Informal caregivers (family or friend; IC) of adults with various diseases experience negative quality of life and poor psychological well-being. However, there is scant research exploring the IC experience.

Objective: To learn how ICs adapt to patients’ diagnosis of HM and their caregiver role.

Methods: The current study used a qualitative descriptive design to analyze the semi-structured interview responses from ICs (N=28) within six weeks of the patients’ HM diagnosis. A content analysis was conducted to generate common themes.

Findings: Several themes emerged related to the IC’s psychological adjustment to their loved one’s illness (HM). Markers of positive adaptation included accepting help, preparedness for caregiver roles, and feelings of empowerment. Markers of poor adaptation included perceived powerlessness, rumination over discomforting thoughts, and struggle with illness transition. Reports of positivity and hope were accompanied by endorsements of easing stress about the patient’s survival and aiding the IC coping. Findings suggest that IC’s are uncomfortable with uncertainty for their future and the logistical challenges associated with the diagnosis.

Implications: Results foster understanding of the psychological complexities of caregiver burden as ICs adapt to the diagnosis and their new supportive role as a caregiver for their loved one with HM. This highlights the need to assess and support ICs during this time. For example, palliative care principles can be leveraged to promote healthy acceptance of the diagnosis, preparation for caregiving, burden prevention, and targeted coping strategies.

Publication Date



cancer, caregiver, hematological malignancy, psychological adjustment



Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Marcia A. Winter

Is Part Of

VCU Graduate Research Posters

Why Them: The Informal Caregiver's Transition to a Cancer Diagnosis

Included in

Psychology Commons