Diaphragmatic Breathing to Reduce Family Caregiver Stress

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Family caregivers of pediatric palliative care patients can experience high levels of stress due to poor sleep patterns, psychological distress, impaired relationships with friends and family, spiritual distress, financial strain, uncertainty of the future, and large changes in daily schedules.  These stressors cumulate in increased overall stress to the caregiver, which can lead to adverse impacts on the patient, including increased hospitalization.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a low-cost, non-pharmacological intervention that can be self-administered and has the potential to reduce physiological and psychological stress.  But there is a paucity of research examining this intervention.  In a previous literature review, only 3 studies were identified that examined the impact of diaphragmatic breathing on stress.  All 3 studies concluded that the intervention was effective in reducing stress.

To advance knowledge in this area, Beattie and Restaino (2022) evaluated the impact of a diaphragmatic breathing intervention on pediatric palliative care patient family caregiver stress.

This pre- and post-test interventional study was conducted through a homecare program in Southern California.  Caregivers of pediatric palliative care patients enrolled in the program, aged 18 years and over with a score of greater than 10 on the Zarit Caregiver Burden Interview Short Form (ZBI-12), were invited to participate.  Twelve caregivers met the inclusion criteria and participated in the study.

The diaphragmatic breathing intervention was implanted following the initial ZBI-12 assessment. The intervention included a simple one-page handout with step-by-step instructions on how to properly perform diaphragmatic breathing.  Caregivers were instructed to perform the intervention as often as they could throughout the day. The ZBI-12 score was then reassessed 60 days after the initial assessment.

The mean pre-intervention ZBI-12 score was 17.4 and the mean post-intervention ZBI-12 score was 12.8.  This difference was statistically significant. The authors concluded that the intervention resulted in less anxiety, stress, depression, and burnout among pediatric palliative caregivers.

Source: Beattie, A., & Restaino, M. R. (2022). Ameliorating Caregiver Burden in the Pediatric Palliative Population Utilizing a Psychophysiological Intervention. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine®, 10499091221130760.