The impact of regular, low-dose, sustained-release morphine for chronic breathlessness on caregiver burden: An exploratory analysis of the BEAMS trial

Publication Name

Palliative Medicine


Background: Chronic breathlessness adversely impacts people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and their caregivers (family and friends), who may, in turn, experience significant burden due to their caregiving role. Sustained-release morphine may reduce chronic breathlessness in some patients, which may have an impact on caregivers’ perceived burden. Aim: To explore the impact on caregiver burden of active treatment of people with chronic breathlessness (modified Medical Research Council (mMRC) ⩾ 3) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) with regular, low-dose, sustained-release morphine within a multi-site, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Design: Exploratory analysis of self-reported caregiver burden at baseline and end of week 3 in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Caregiver measures included: demographics and perceived burden (Zarit Burden Interview 12-item short-form questionnaire). Patient measures included: worst breathlessness and FitBitR-measures. Setting/participants: All consenting caregivers of trial patient participants in a multi-site study recruiting from palliative care and respiratory services. Results: Caregivers (n = 49; 59% women; median age 68 years [IQR 50–75]) reported median baseline caregiver burden 12 [IQR 5–17], with 53% reporting high burden (⩾13). Eighty-four percent of caregivers reported no change in burden. In people whose worst breathlessness improved, caregiver burden moved in the same direction, though the correlation was not significant (rs = 0.25, p = 0.17). Conversely, caregiver burden worsened as patients’ minutes lightly active increased, with the correlation being significant (rs = 0.56, p = 0.04). Conclusions: Caregivers reported high levels of caregiver burden, but patients’ response to treatment in terms of their symptom and function may influence change in caregiver burden over a three-week period.

Open Access Status

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Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

National Health and Medical Research Council



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