The Physical Health of Caregivers of Children With Life-Limiting Conditions: A Systematic Review.

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Parental caregiving for a child with a life-limiting condition (LLC) is complex physical and mental work. The impact of this caregiving on parents’ physical health is unknown.(1) To review existing evidence on the physical health of parents caring for a child with a LLC and (2) to determine how physical health of parents is measured.Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, and Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature were searched.Peer-reviewed articles were included if they reported primary data on the physical health of a caregiver of a child with a LLC. Studies were excluded if they described only the caregiver’s mental health or if the caregivers were bereaved at the time of data collection.Of 69‚ÄČ335 unique citations, 81 studies were included in the review.Caregiver health was negatively impacted in 84% of studies. Pain and sleep disturbance were the most common problems. Ways of measuring the physical health of caregiver varied widely. We found an absence of in-depth explorations of the social and economic contexts, which could potentially mitigate the impact of caregiving. Furthermore, we find health interventions tailored to this group remain largely unexplored.Studies were heterogenous in methodology, making comparisons of results across studies difficult.These findings support the need for improving access to interventions aimed at improving physical health in this population. The rate of health-seeking behaviors, preventive health care access and screening for health conditions is understudied and represent important directions for further research.

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Authors: Julie Hartley, Myra Bluebond-Langner, Bridget Candy, Jonathan Downie, Ellen M Henderson