09 May Carer Wellbeing
A diagnosis of cancer can be overwhelming for not only the patient but also their carer. Being a carer is a complex and stressful challenge. Carers need to learn new skills, negotiate hospital mazes and learn medical language. Each situation is unique depending on the carer’s health, their financial situation, existing responsibilities and their relationship with the person they care for.
Australian and international evidence indicates that family carers generally have poorer health and wellbeing than non-carers especially if the carer has been caring for a long time. (Cummins et al. 2007)
According to Associate Prof Lambert from Canada’s prestigious Ingram School of Nursing at McGill University, Montreal. Many caregivers for people with cancer need more support to help them cope with the massive challenges they encounter. “We have found that carers for people with cancer often experience more anxiety and depression than the patients.”
In November 2006, Solaris implemented a Carer’s Course for those who are caring for people with a serious illness. The course is designed to directly benefit the wellbeing of the carer, and enhance the caring relationship of both parties. Participants include partners, relatives and friends closely connected with someone who has a serious illness. The illness is usually cancer, but sometimes other illnesses are represented and feedback suggests participants find the course quite appropriate.
Since its inception over 450 participants have attended the Carer’s Course. The course is usually conducted on a Saturday 5-6 times a year. Topics include communication, pain and symptom control, medications, exercise, nutrition, fatigue and stress management, safety at home and self-care. This experiential course allows time for group interaction, question and answers. Handouts and resource material are provided on completion of each course.
The amount of care provided by the participants varies widely as does the type of cancer. Diagnosis may be very recent or some time ago, however, participants indicate the best time to attend the course is soon after diagnosis. The age-range of participants has been from late teens to late seventies.
The Carer’s Course provides carers with practical skills and coping strategies on how they can improve their own quality of life, reduce the sense of isolation and enhance well-being and the relationship between all involved.
- Wellbeing of Australians : carer health and wellbeing Cummins, Robert, Hughes, Joan, Tomyn, Adrian, Gibson, Adele, Woerner, Jacqueline and Lai, Lufanna 2007, Wellbeing of Australians : carer health and wellbeing, Deakin University, Geelong, Vic.