Background: Close relatives provide much of the care to people with cancer. As resilience can shield family caregivers from mental health problems, there has been a burgeoning interest in resilience-promoting interventions. However, the evidence necessary for the development of these interventions is scant and unsynthesized.
Aim: To create an overall picture of evidence on resilience in cancer caregiving by a theory-driven meta-synthesis.
Design: In this systematically constructed review a thematic synthesis approach has been applied. The original findings were coded and structured deductively according to the theoretical framework. Consequently, the codes were organized inductively into themes and subthemes.
Data sources: Through September 2019, five electronic databases were searched for qualitative studies on resilience in cancer caregiving. The search was extended by a supplementary hand search. Seventeen studies met the eligibility criteria.
Results: The elements of resilience, as described in the pre-defined theoretical framework of Bonanno, are reflected in the lived experiences of family caregivers. The resilience process starts with the diagnosis of advanced cancer and may result in mental wellbeing, benefit finding, and personal growth. The process is influenced by context elements such as individual history, sociocultural background, caregiver characteristics, and the behavior of the supportive network. A repertoire of coping strategies that caregivers use throughout the caregiving process moderates the resilience process.
Conclusion: This review and theoretical synthesis reveal key elements of resilience in the process of cancer caregiving, including influencing factors and outcomes. Implications and avenues for further research are discussed.