A qualitative descriptive study sought to better understand the perspectives and priorities of adults with cancer aged 65 and older and their caregivers. The study consisted of 3 public meetings in 2 urban centers in Saskatchewan and follow-up interviews with 35 older adults and caregivers. Their findings were published in Oncology Nursing Forum.
Research suggests that older adults with cancer have unique needs, including demands of comorbidities, susceptibility to treatment toxicities, and a potentially high symptom burden. A cancer diagnosis also affects patients’ caregivers. Therefore, a greater understanding of the experiences of older patients and their caregivers to better direct health research was sought.
Study findings revealed that many older adults with cancer are, in fact, interested in participating in research opportunities that will further the knowledge base relative to their specific needs and priorities.
The researchers identified 5 research priorities, which they grouped into 2 main themes of communication and tailored cancer support for older adults:
- Technology-based solutions,
- Improved patient-provider communications,
- Desire for enhanced patient education strategies that address multiple comorbidities and age-related needs,
- Survivorship supports that are tangible and accessible, and
- Support for caregivers and their needs.
The participants reported appreciating the opportunity to share their experiences in a group session. Many of them expressed interest in future involvement in research projects, as long as it would be short-term involvement. They cautioned that they were not interested in sustained involvement in long-term research activities, which may be relevant to planning out the scope of future projects involving older adults with cancer. “For future research with older adults, time frame and expectations of involvement are important considerations,” the researchers noted.
Specialized training and education for oncology nursing staff could increase their awareness of the unique needs of older adults and their caregivers, as well as any special considerations that may need attention. Workshops on relevant topics and certification in geriatric care would benefit nurses.
Study limitations included its small size, the way participants were recruited, and the location of the community groups. The participants also may have been more interested in clinical research, motivated to see information, more literate, and likely more comfortable with technology.
Haase KR, Tompson MA, Hall S, Satta S, Ahmed S. Engaging older adults with cancer and their caregivers to set research priorities through cancer and aging research discussion sessions. Oncol Nurs Forum. 2021;48(6):613-622. doi:10.1188/21.onf.613-622