PURPOSE: Clinical communication and facilitating informed and sound medical decisions become challenging as patients age and suffer from age-associated impairments. Family caregivers are perceived as essential actors in addressing these challenges. Here, we explore physicians' perspectives on family caregivers' roles and their involvement in consultations and therapy decision-making situations of elderly cancer patients.

METHODS: We examined 38 semi-structured interviews with physicians from different specialities (oncologists, non-oncology specialists, and general practitioners) in Germany who treated elderly cancer patients. Data were analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis.

RESULTS: We identified five general and distinct perspectives on the involvement of family caregivers in the therapy process. Family caregivers are seen as (1) translators of medical information; (2) providers of support for the patient; (3) providers of information about the patient; (4) stakeholders with relevant points of view regarding the treatment decision; or (5) individuals who have a disruptive influence on the consultation. The interviewed physicians rarely involved family caregivers closely in consultations.

CONCLUSIONS: Although physicians frequently attribute supportive roles to family caregivers, they rarely include them in consultations. Previous studies have found that a triadic setting is often better suited to agreeing upon a patient-centered and needs-based treatment decision for older cancer patients. We infer that physicians too rarely recognize the potential importance of family caregivers. Educators should further integrate family caregiver involvement and its implications in general medical education and professional training.

Original languageEnglish
Article number387
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)387
Publication statusPublished - 09.06.2023

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Center for Population Medicine and Public Health (ZBV)
  • Research Area: Center for Cultural Studies (ZKFL)
  • Research Area: Luebeck Integrated Oncology Network (LION)
  • Centers: University Cancer Center Schleswig-Holstein (UCCSH)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 205-02 Public Health, Health Services Research and Social Medicine
  • 205-14 Haematology, Oncology


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