A new study has said that family caregivers who attend to dying patients often share whole illness of their loved ones and need support just as much.
The authors, led by Professor Scott Murray from the University of Edinburgh, are now suggesting that family caregivers may also experience typical patterns of well being and distress that their relatives are going through.
In 42 interviews with patients with lung cancer and 46 interviews with their family carers, the scientists realized that carers who were generally healthy, lost their ability to tend to the patient because of depression.
"Carers, like patients, often felt they were on an emotional roller coaster, experiencing peaks and troughs at key times of stress and uncertainty in the cancer trajectory," they wrote.
"It may also be empowering for carers to know that it is common to feel stressed and in need of support at certain times," they add.
The authors conclude that psychological and existential support should be targeted at carers at the four key stages of the terminal illness - at diagnosis, at home after initial treatment, at recurrence, and during the terminal stage.
The study is published in the British Medical Journal.