The Importance of Older Family Members in Providing Social Resources and Promoting Cancer Screening in Families With a Hereditary Cancer Syndrome

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Abstract

Purpose: This study evaluates the role of older family members as providers of social resources within familial network systems affected by an inherited cancer susceptibility syndrome. Design and Methods: Respondents who previously participated in a study that involved genetic counseling and testing for Lynch syndrome and their family network members were invited to participate in a onetime telephone interview about family communication. Results: A total of 206 respondents from 33 families identified 2,051 social relationships (dyads). Nineteen percent of the respondents and 25% of the network members were older (≥60 years). Younger respondents (≤59 years) were more likely to nominate older network members as providers of social resources than younger members: instrumental support (odds ratio [OR] = 1.68), emotional support (OR = 1.71), help in crisis situation (OR = 2.04), and dependability when needed (OR = 2.15). Compared with younger network members, older members were more likely to be listed as encouragers of colon cancer screening by both younger (OR = 3.40) and older respondents (OR = 1.90) independent of whether support exchange occurred in the relationship. Implications: Engaging older network members in health interventions to facilitate screening behaviors and emotional well-being of younger members within families affected by inherited conditions may be beneficial. Findings can be used to empower older individuals about their important social roles in enhancing the well-being of their family members and to inform younger individuals about their older relatives’ resourcefulness to facilitate positive social interactions.

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