e-Poster Presentation Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting 2020

Caregiver burden and experience of an Australian geriatric oncology population during COVID-19 pandemic (#286)

Harry Gasper 1 2 , Elizabeth Ahern 1 2 , Natasha Roberts 1 3 , Hermione Wheatley 1 , Peter McGuire 1 , David Wyld 1 2 , Glen Kennedy 1 2 , Melissa Eastgate 1 2 , Andrea Henden 1 2 , Darshit Thaker 1 2
  1. Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Herston, QLD, Australia
  2. School of Medicine, University of Queensland, Herston, QLD, Australia
  3. School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Herston, QLD, Australia


Advanced age and cancer as a comorbidity are independent risk factors for adverse outcomes from COVID-19 infection. We hypothesised that caring for a person receiving cancer treatment would be associated with high carer stress.


Carers of older (age >65) patients of an Australian community oncology clinic were invited to participate in a prospective survey during the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey domains comprised five aspects: patient characteristics, living situation, Modified Caregiver Strain Index (mCSI) (3-point Likert scale), adaptation to situation containing open free-text questions, and satisfaction with telemedicine. mCSI scores were compared between groups of carers based on chemotherapy receipt by the person receiving care (unpaired t-test; significance demonstrated by p<0.05).


The study opened on 27th April 2020. As of 12th July 2020, 16 surveys were completed. 14/16 people being cared for were on at least one active treatment at time(12 chemotherapy, 2 immunotherapy, 1 targeted therapy, 5 supportive therapy). 14 carers lived with their care recipient, with the other two visiting at least weekly. 15 participants completed mCSI; mean was 6.2 (standard deviation 4.3; range 1-16). 4 carers scored 10 or above; these were all live-in carers for patients on active treatment including chemotherapy, although an association between systemic treatment and higher mCSI scores did not reach significance (p=0.39). 13/15 carers reported having internet access, and 4/15 were somewhat or very uncomfortable with using internet-based applications for either communication or information gathering. 7/16 had participated in telemedicine.


High caregiver strain was evident amongst some carers of cancer patients during COVID-19 but was not significantly associated with receipt of systemic treatment by the person receiving care. Over half had participated in telemedicine consultations.