Care for caregivers

CaringCaregiverBlog1Caregivers may be spouses, partners, family members, or close friends who give the person with cancer physical and emotional care. Giving care can mean helping with daily needs. This can include making meals, arranging and transporting to doctor visits, and helping with bathing and dressing. It can also mean helping your loved one to cope with feelings.

Often, caregivers are happy to put the well-being of the person with cancer above their own well-being. It is normal to put your own feelings and needs aside while caregiving, but you need to take care of yourself, too. If you don’t, you may not be able to care for others.

There are many causes of stress among cancer caregivers. Everyone has emotional ups and downs, but early attention to symptoms of depression can make a big difference in how the Continue reading

Care for Caregivers

Caregivers may be spouses, partners, family members, or close friends who give the person with cancer physical and emotional care. Giving care can mean helping with daily needs.  This can include making meals, arranging and transporting to doctor visits, and helping with bathing and dressing.  It can also mean helping your loved one to cope with feelings.

As a caregiver, you may be glad to put the well-being of the person with cancer above your own well-being.  When giving care, it is normal to put your own feelings and needs aside, but you need to take care of yourself too.  If you don’t, you may not be able to care for others.

There are many causes of stress in cancer caregivers.   Everyone has emotional ups and downs, but early attention to symptoms of depression can make a big difference in how the caregiver feels about their role and how well they can do the things they need to do.  There are ways to help reduce stress which may help prevent serious depression.

Tips for a strong patient and caregiver team:

  • Support one another, even though only one person is ill.
  • Communicate openly.
  • Share worries and concerns.
  • Maintain an active lifestyle as much as possible.
  • Continue enjoyable activities.
  • Ask questions to understand and manage symptoms.
  • Help one another cope.

The FOCUS Support Program is an Ann Arbor area support group held at the Cancer Support Community.  It is a free six-week program for cancer patients and caregivers to lean about how to live through and beyond cancer.  The program is unique in that it addresses caregiver concerns and how patients and loved ones can work as a team to manage and cope with the illness.  If you are interested in participating, contact the Cancer Support Community at 734-975-2500.

If you were/are a caregiver, what worked for you?  Please feel free to leave a comment.

Resources

Managing Emotions – Finding Strength in Others

Caring For Your Own:  Skills Lab empowers families to be partners in cancer treatment

Family Caregiver Alliance

Support for Cancer Caregivers

Fourteen years after recovering from breast cancer, Carol Rugg was diagnosed with stage 2 cervical cancer. Rugg knew she’d fight again and her husband, Richard Montmorency, as her caregiver, would struggle through it, too.

The FOCUS program encourages participants to make plans for the future. Montmorency (foreground) and Rugg plan to go overseas now that she is well.

“The caregiver is like a secondary player in this game,” Rugg says. “That caregiver is stressed to the max and nobody is paying much attention to them.”

Helping cancer patients and their family caregivers cope with the disease has been the focus of University of Michigan research led by Laurel Northouse, Ph.D., R.N., and former co-director of the Socio-behavioral Program at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. An estimated 4.6 million Americans provide care to patients with cancer.

“Patients are leaving the hospital sicker and sooner than ever before and, when they go home, they may have drains or a pump or another medical need,” Northouse says. “Patients often return home to a setting where the caregiver, for the most part, hasn’t had preparation on how to be a caregiver.”

Northhouse’s research was used to develop an Ann Arbor-based support group, the FOCUS Program, for cancer patients and caregivers. The support group is run by the Cancer Support Community.

FOCUS stands for:

Family Involvement
Optimistic Attitude
Coping Effectiveness
Uncertainty Reduction
Symptom Management

Tips for a strong patient and caregiver team:

  • Support each other, even though only one person is ill
  • Communicate openly
  • Share worries and concerns
  • Maintain an active lifestyle as much as possible
  • Continue enjoyable activities
  • Ask questions to understand and manage symptoms
  • Help each other cope

Learn about support groups and programs at the Cancer Support Community of Ann Arbor.

See more caregiver support groups.

Suggestions and tips for caregivers.

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U-M Cancer Center develops program with Cancer Support Community to help patients and caregivers cope

For 44 years of marriage, Karen and Larry Ganzini have balanced each other. Karen is a talker; Larry is quiet. Larry isn’t keen to show his soft side; Karen feels worse when she bottles up emotions.

Karen and Larry Ganzini said the FOCUS program helped them both to cope better with the uncertainties of cancer.

Karen and Larry Ganzini said the FOCUS program helped them both to cope better with the uncertainties of cancer.

Nearly 10 years ago, Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although Karen says that cancer almost feels like second nature now, issues due to the couple’s differing communication styles have cropped up as the disease has progressed to stage IV. Karen and Larry support each other, but it was still difficult to talk about certain aspects of Karen’s cancer.

When Karen learned about a new pilot program to help patients and their caregivers cope better, the Ganzinis signed up. The program was offered by the Ann Arbor branch of the Cancer Support Community, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education and support to people with cancer.

“I asked the question about hospice, and my husband really didn’t want to go there at this point. He doesn’t like to talk about the end, and I understand that,” Karen said. “But I need to know what it’s going to be like.”

By enrolling in the pilot program, Karen got her answers, and both Ganzinis agreed that the experience helped them feel better about their situation. The program, called FOCUS, is based on University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center research that has shown that patients and caregivers benefitted from meeting with a nurse to provide them with information and support.

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Make your voice heard by joining Cancer Center’s Patient & Family Advisory Board

The University of Michigan ComprehensiveCancer Center is seeking people to serve on its new Cancer Patient & FamilyAdvisory Board and related committees. Leaders from the Cancer Center and the cancer inpatient units of University Hospital have joined with several U-M patients and family members to develop this new exciting initiative.

The board will be designed to give patients, families and other members of the community a stronger voice in programming and planning throughout the Cancer Centerand University Hospital. To learn more about the board and how to apply, visit mCancer.org/volunteer.