Family caregiver "perspective-taking", a determinant of "empathic" accuracy on symptom experience in advanced stage cancer patients

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Lobchuk, Michelle Marie.
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The major purpose of this study was, first, to examine the degree of family caregiver empathic accuracy on the multidimensional symptom experience of advanced stage cancer patients and second, to identify whether perspective-taking by family caregivers and other factors play an influential role in their inferences and subsequent empathic accuracy outcomes on patient symptom experience. Using a descriptive comparative survey design, a convenience sample of 98 advanced stage cancer patient-primary family caregiver dyads completed the Memorial Symptom Assessment Scale (MSAS) and the Dyadic Perspective-Taking Scale (DPTS). Family caregivers also responded to self-report and induced perspective-taking instructional sets on two MSAS symptoms. Findings from parametric and non-parametric analyses confirm previously held trends that describe patient and family caregiver congruence on patient symptom experiences. In main group analyses, findings suggest that it is more of a challenge for family caregivers to inhibit their own symptom experience from interfering with their perception of the patient's viewpoint on psychological versus physical symptoms. In addition, depending on the physical or psychological nature of symptom items, induced perspective-taking activities can have differential effects on caregiver empathic accuracy. A major finding suggests that an imagine-other instructional prompt on physical symptoms and a neutral prompt on psychological symptoms might serve as simple clinical interventions that promote judgment accuracy by family caregivers. Recommendations for nursing practice and future research are made based on the study results.