SUPPORTING THE SUPPORTERS: WHAT FAMILY CAREGIVERS NEED TO CARE FOR A LOVED ONE WITH CANCER

Leonard Berry, Texas A&M University

Shraddha Dalwadi, Texas A&M University

Joe Jacobson, Texas A&M University

  

Cancer patients who live at home often require help with activities of daily living, basic medical care (e.g., injections), social needs, and patient advocacy. Most of that support comes from intimate caregivers, typically members of the patient’s family. These “family caregivers” themselves require support so that they can be effective and maintain their own well-being while caring for the cancer patient. Research shows that support for caregivers contributes to achieving these goals. We propose a four-part framework for supporting family caregivers: (1) Assess caregivers’ needs using formal measures, just as the cancer patient’s own needs are assessed; (2) Educate caregivers for their caregiving roles, most notably with training in the low-level medical support that cancer patients require at home; (3) Empower caregivers to become full-fledged members of the patient’s cancer team, all working toward common goals; and (4) Assist caregivers proactively in their duties, so that they retain a sense of control and self-efficacy rather than having to react to imminent medical crises without sufficient resources at their disposal. Funding support for family caregivers requires refocusing on the overall well-being of the patient–caregiver dyad rather than just on the patient. It will require a paradigm shift in reimbursement that recognizes the need for holistic cancer care.

“Supporting the Supporters: What Family Caregivers Need to Care for a Loved One with Cancer,” Journal of Oncology Practice, January 2017, pp. 35-41.