October 19, 2011
For those who are taking care of a spouse who is seriously ill, a good piece of advice is to make sure that caregiver stays as healthy – physically and mentally – as possible. That’s why respite help is so important. Home Instead CAREGiversSM are often called to give weary family caregivers a break.
Q. My 72-year-old mother is caring for my father, who has prostate cancer. I’m worried about the stress on her health since my father suffered a recurrence of the disease. Mom has been dealing with these issues for several years. What can I do to help?
The stress of caring for a seriously ill senior can certainly take its toll on a spouse. A study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center – the results of which appeared in the Journal of Clinical Oncology – found that what really impacted emotional distress among both patients and their spouses was whether the patient was newly diagnosed, facing a recurrence or living with advanced disease.
Researchers looked at 263 men with prostate cancer and their spouses. Participants were recruited from three large cancer centers. Both the men and their wives completed questionnaires that assessed quality of life, including physical, social, family, emotional and functional issues. Patients and spouses each reported on their own quality of life.
The researchers found little difference in quality of life between patients and spouses, but found significant differences based on the phase of their illness. Couples coping with advanced disease had significantly poorer overall quality of life. Spouses reported lower confidence than patients in their ability to manage the illness, and more uncertainty about the illness; patients also reported more social support than did spouses.
One way to assist your mother is to get her respite help. If you or other family members can’t be there to give your mom a break, consider hiring professional help. Local Home Instead CAREGiversSM, for instance, are often called on to provide respite assistance to family caregivers.
Why not help your mother by encouraging her to visit www.caregiverstress.com, the Home Instead Senior Care® network’s website designed just for family caregivers? One quarter of adults are presently caring for an aging parent or relative, with close to half (45 percent) of this group – such as your mom – providing care for their spouse, according to Home Instead Senior Care.
On this website, your mother can take an online test to gauge her level of stress. The site also features tips and other stress relief for family caregivers. The best thing your mother can do for your father is to take care of herself, so any way you can help her do that could improve her health and emotional well-being, too.
For more information visit http://jco.ascopubs.org/cgi/content/abstract/25/27/4171.
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