CHANGING THE WAY: THE CARE FOR OUR CAREGIVERS
By Paula Muldoon on April 2 / 2017
[Cancer, Cancer Coaching, Caregivers, Families]
Over the last 20 years, phenomenal medical advances in cancer prevention, screening, early diagnosis and multi-intervention treatment regimens, have relegated several types of cancer to the realm of a chronic disease (like diabetes, arthritis and COPD). Today, more people are living longer with cancer.
This shift has resulted in fewer or shortened hospital stays with an increase in ambulatory (out-patient), community-based and home-based care for cancer patients and an increase in family members assuming the role of primary caregivers. In Eastern Ontario, there it is estimated 7,900 new diagnoses of cancer – one every hour – each year with close to 30, 000 cancer patients presently in treatment. That’s a lot of affected families and caregivers.
Despite this brighter outlook, cancer remains the number one cause of premature death in Canada. According to the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care 2011 Report, Not to be Forgotten: Care of Vulnerable Canadians, family caregivers provide between 70% and 80% of care given in Canadian homes and communities, worth an estimated – and whopping — $25 billion per year.
The responsibilities of caregivers and the physical, mental and financial burden they selflessly carry are profoundly affected by a patient’s prognosis and stage of cancer. Nonetheless, these caregivers are unanimous in reporting difficulties in juggling the competing demands of providing emotional and tangible support to their loved ones/patients while meeting the ongoing and ever-present obligations of home, work, and family. Especially during active treatment, these demands are exacerbated in terms of providing transportation, scheduling appointments and interacting with the team of healthcare providers – family doctor, diagnostic imaging tech, oncologist, radiation and chemotherapy nurses, surgeons, etc.
To magnify this problem, caregivers are expected to learn new illness-related terminology, continuously enter new treatment settings with the cancer patient, and actively and knowledgeably participate in treatment-related decision-making. The caregiver must carefully navigate the medical world by researching new treatment options and endless internet based resources, limitations of a financially strained health system and growth of private and alternative health and social care services. Terms like engagement, empowerment and partnership are commonly used to describe the new role of both patients and caregivers.
Caregivers often put their own needs aside and jeopardize their own health in the process of taking care of a loved one. At present, there are perilous few resources or systemic supports to address caregivers’ personal needs. We must provide our caregivers with coordinated, personalized support and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation is proud to be leading the way with Caregiver Coaching Services.
Caregivers of individuals with a cancer diagnosis can find the support they need from the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. They can meet with a Cancer Coach who will support them in developing a self-care plan. Caregivers can also participate in group coaching programs to share common experiences with others who are supporting loved ones with cancer and discuss various ways to meet their personal wellness needs.
The Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation is helping people living with cancer by providing increased access to person-centered care through the delivery of the Cancer Coaching Health and Social Care Service and the funding of innovative cancer research and a world-class clinical trials program.
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