Open communication between caregivers’ and terminally ill cancer patients about illness and death: The role of gender - A correlational study

Sara Carmel, Yoram Singer, Nili Yosef-Sela, Yaacov G. Bachner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: Caregivers face severe difficulties in communicating openly with their terminally ill relatives about illness and death. Some studies suggest that females are more likely than males to hold such conversations. We compared level of open communication between male and female spouse-caregivers, and the contribution of personal and situational characteristics to the explanation of open communication level within each gender group. Methods: The study design was correlational. We interviewed 77 spousal-primary caregivers of terminal cancer patients. Participants were recruited over a 10-month period from the home hospice unit of the central region of Israel's largest Health Maintenance Organization. The questionnaire included measures of open communication, along with caregiver's personal and situational characteristics. Results: Female spouses reported higher levels of open communication about illness and death with their loved ones, compared to male spouses. Among males, duration of care and self-efficacy emerged as significant contributors to open communication level. Among females, self-efficacy and ethnic origin were found to be significant explanatory variables. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the important role gender plays in level of open communication between spousal caregivers and terminal cancer patients, concerning their illness and approaching death. Self-efficacy, ethnic origin and duration of care are also significant factors explaining open communication of both male and female caregivers. These factors should be considered by nurses and other healthcare professionals when developing intervention programs to increase the level of open communication between family caregivers and their terminally ill relatives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101828
JournalEuropean Journal of Oncology Nursing
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Cancer
  • Caregivers
  • Gender differences
  • Open communication
  • Self-efficacy
  • Spouses
  • Terminal illness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology(nursing)


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