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 over time 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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