Family members and caregivers of cancer survivors also have psychological concerns. The diagnosis of a life-threatening illness for a family member creates fear of losing the loved one and concern about the suffering he or she may experience. Results from a 2013 study investigating the unmet needs of cancer caregivers over a 2-year period indicated that the most common unmet needs reported by caregivers were: (1) fear of a cancer diagnosis returning, (2) reducing stress in the person they are providing care for, (3) and increasing understanding of the experience of the person with cancer they are providing care. Frequently caregivers identify their primary role as caring for the patient/survivor and put aside their own self-care needs. The day-to-day activities of providing care and concerns for another can contribute to caregiver fatigue, sleep disturbances, depression and problems with daily functioning. commonly referred to as burnout.
Family members’ distress can be as severe as that of the patient. Research suggests that the psychological distress of family members and informal caregivers and significant others is generally parallel and that helping family members and caregivers to manage their distress may have a beneficial effect on the distress level of survivors.
Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation
Both survivors and caregivers experiencing depression and other forms of psychological distress may benefit from counseling from social workers and mental health professionals. A form of meditation called “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy,” may be taught in classes or through self help resources aims to help individuals change the ways in which they relate to their thoughts rather than changing their thoughts. Research suggests that mindfulness practices may benefit both survivors and caregivers of cancer survivors and provide both with improved quality of life.
The evidence suggests that mindfulness may result in positive improved psychological functioning, reduction of stress symptoms, enhanced coping and wellbeing.
Resources for Survivors and Caregivers
Cancer survivors and their families my find support for non-medical concerns of survivorship in a number of places. Advocacy groups like LiveSTRONG, the Cancer Support Community and the American Cancer Society provide local and web-based programs focused on the social, practical and psychological needs of cancer survivors and their families. Cancer survivorship clinics, located in major hospitals across the U.S. may also provide classes and resources including counseling and connections to social services specifically for cancer survivors.
Healthy Survivorship provides its web-and mobile app based tool, www.MyHealthFinder.org as a resource locator for survivorship resources. Additionally, the following links to resources may be helpful.
Cancer Support Community offers both online and toll free support services for both survivors and caregivers. Cancer Support Community’s Cancer Support Helpline is for anyone affected by cancer. will call you as soon as possible.
Call 1-888-793-9355 and a Helpline Call Counselor will be happy to assist you with any of the following:
- Short-term cancer counseling and emotional support
- Local or national resources, including support groups to connect with others
- Cancer Support Community affiliates near you
- General information about the Cancer Support Community and its programs and services (in-person, online and by phone)
- Treatment decision support counseling
- Access to CancerSupportSource™ online distress screening program
CancerCare – Professional oncology social workers provide free emotional and practical support for people with cancer, caregivers, loved ones and the bereaved.
Last Updated 5.6.2015
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