Family carer needs in advanced disease: systematic review of reviews

David John Tom Marco, Kristina Thomas, Serra Ivynian, Helen Wilding, Deborah Parker, Jennifer Tieman, Peter Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Family carers are vital in the management and delivery of home-based palliative care. Decision-makers need to know what the most commonly expressed unmet needs of family carers are to target available support services. AIM: To identify the most commonly expressed needs of family carers of people with an advanced disease, assess the quality of current evidence, and set an agenda for future research and clinical practice. DESIGN: A systematic review of reviews, prospectively registered on PROSPERO. Study quality was assessed using the Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal checklist for systematic reviews and research syntheses. DATA SOURCES: MEDLINE, Embase, Emcare, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Informit and Cochrane Library were searched for reviews about the needs of carers looking after patients with advanced disease from 2010 to 2020. RESULTS: Findings from 21 reviews identified emotional support, disease-specific knowledge, carer role responsibilities, self-care and general practical support as the most commonly expressed needs expressed by family carers. Additionally, access to professional services, formal education opportunities and communication with health professionals were identified as caregivers' preferred ways of having these needs met. Extraction of carer-specific needs was challenging at times as results were often combined with patient results in reviews. CONCLUSION: Practical difficulties exist in effectively resourcing services to meet the needs of family carers. Information regarding the most commonly expressed needs shared by caregivers and their preferred delivery source can provide an opportunity to focus available support services to achieve the highest possible impact for carers of patients with advanced disease. PROSPERO REGISTRATION NUMBER: CRD42018088678.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-141
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ supportive & palliative care
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • chronic conditions
  • home care
  • terminal care


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