Burden and Unmet Needs of Caregivers of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Patients: A Systematic Review of the Volume and Focus of Research Output

Caregivers of individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience significant burden. To develop effective interventions to support this vulnerable group, it is necessary to understand how this burden varies as a function of patient well-being and across the illness trajectory. This systematic review aimed to identify the number and type of data-based publications exploring the burden and unmet needs of caregivers of individuals with COPD. Medline, Embase, PsycINFO and Cochrane databases were searched for studies published between January 2000 and February 2014. Studies were eligible if they were quantitative studies examining unmet needs of, or burden on, adult caregivers of individuals with COPD. Eligible papers were categorised according to (i) type (i.e. descriptive, measurement and intervention studies); (ii) whether they measured associations between patient and caregiver burden and (iii) whether they measured caregiver burden longitudinally. Twenty-seven data-based papers met criteria for inclusion. There was a significant increase in the total number of publications over time. The majority of publications were descriptive studies (n = 25), with one measurement and one intervention study identified. Fourteen descriptive studies measured the relationship between patient or caregiver factors and caregiver burden. Only two studies measured caregiver burden over time. There are a number of gaps in the body of research examining burden and unmet needs of caregivers of individuals with COPD that preclude the development of effective interventions for this population. Greater research effort should be directed towards identifying rigorous measurement tools which more accurately characterise caregiver burden, so that evidence-based interventions can be developed.