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Coping with Cancer Interventions for the Family
Cancer & Family continuing education counselor CEUs

Section 7
Cancer Caregivers' Psychological Adjustment

CEU Question 7 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Cancer
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track we discussed what to do.  The actions on this track included bringing food, getting the patient involved, helping with chores, helping with out of town guests, calling and visiting, and creating laughter. 

On this track we will discuss providing comfort to the caregiver.  Three interventions which can help provide comfort to the caregiver include not letting the cancer patient be the focus of all conversation, encourage time outs, and avoiding interference.

3 Ways to Comfort the Caregiver

# 1- Not Letting the Cancer Patient Be the Focus of All Conversation
First, your client might be able to provide comfort to the caregiver by not letting the cancer patient be the focus of all conversation.  Valerie stormed into one session and stated, "I can’t walk down the hall at work or shop at the market without someone asking me, ‘How’s Bob?!’  You may think I’m ungrateful!  At least people care enough to ask how his treatments are going.  But I get so tired of answering these endless questions!" 

Is your client or a caregiver-your-client is close to experiencing emotional fatigue regarding addressing cancer related issues on an ongoing basis?  At a later session, Valerie arrived calmly.  Smiling, she stated, "I was in the same market I go to every Saturday.  I was ready to be positive and answer the inevitable cancer questions.  Then, Sandy, a woman I barely know approached me.  She had that concerned ‘I’m curious about your sick husband’ look.  I was worried she was going to try to pray with me in the aisle or worse.  Instead she took my arm and told me she was worried about me.  She asked how I was handling things.  I just wanted to cry right then and there!" 

Think of your client.  How might he or she approach the caregiver of a loved one with cancer to offer support?

# 2 - Encourage Time Outs
Next, let’s discuss how clients can encourage time outs.  Caregivers like Tina, age 61, may want time to themselves away from the cancer patient.  Tina felt guilty about wanting time away from her husband Gary who was in his sixth month of chemotherapy.  Tina stated, "Gary whines and sometimes yells if I’m going to be gone for an hour." 

My client, Tina’s daughter Wendy, had suggested Tina join a support group.  After a few weeks, Wendy reported that her mother felt that the support group was her ‘only break.’  She stated, "It means so much to mom to go to group every week.  But she wants more time on her own to get her hair done or visit bookstores."  I suggested Wendy offer to keep Gary company for two or three hours one day each week so Tina could get some time out.  Think of your Wendy.  How can your client encourage time outs for the caregiver of a loved one with cancer?

# 3 - Avoiding Interference
In addition to not letting the cancer patient be the focus of all conversation and encouraging time outs, third we’ll discuss avoiding interference.  As you may already know, sometimes caregivers are additionally burdened by interfering relatives. 

Daniel, age 43, stated, "My mother in law constantly points our that I’m not doing enough for Carla or the boys."  Some of Daniel’s mother in law’s comments included, ‘I know Carla better than you, and you should do things differently,’ or, ‘you shouldn’t work such long hours.’  Daniel stated, "The worst thing she has said to me is, ‘You should be more concerned!  You act like you’re waiting for her to die!’" 

Though Daniel’s overbearing mother-in-law is an extreme example, does your client unintentionally make interfering comments?  Even if the client, like Daniel’s mother in law, knows the cancer patient better, caregivers tend to be offended by the intervention.  I stated to one client, "if the primary caregiver has solicited your support, give it.  However, if you make recommendations when she has not asked for your help, you appear to be a backseat driver."  Think of your client.  How might he or she avoid interfence?

On this track we have discussed providing comfort to the caregiver.  Three interventions which can help provide comfort to the caregiver include not letting the cancer patient be the focus of all conversation, encourage time outs, and avoiding interference.

On the next track we will discuss managing cancer in the workplace.  Four guidelines for managing cancer in the workplace are don’t participate in denial, don’t reduce responsibilities without asking, flexible scheduling, and trouble signs and two steps to effective confrontation. 

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
DuBenske, L. L., Gustafson, D. H., Namkoong, K., Hawkins, R. P., Atwood, A. K., Brown, R. L., Chih, M.-Y., McTavish, F., Carmack, C. L., Buss, M. K., Govindan, R., & Cleary, J. F. (2014). CHESS improves cancer caregivers’ burden and mood: Results of an eHealth RCT. Health Psychology, 33(10), 1261–1272. 

Katz, L. F., Fladeboe, K., King, K., Gurtovenko, K., Kawamura, J., Friedman, D., Compas, B., Gruhn, M., Breiger, D., Lengua, L., Lavi, I., & Stettler, N. (2018). Trajectories of child and caregiver psychological adjustment in families of children with cancer. Health Psychology, 37(8), 725–735.

Kim, Y., Shaffer, K. M., Carver, C. S., & Cannady, R. S. (2014). Prevalence and predictors of depressive symptoms among cancer caregivers 5 years after the relative’s cancer diagnosis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82(1), 1–8. 

Saracino, R. M., Cham, H., Rosenfeld, B., & Nelson, C. J. (2020). Confirmatory factor analysis of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale in oncology with examination of invariance between younger and older patients. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 36(2), 229–236.

Schäfer, A., Pels, F., & Kleinert, J. (2020). Effects of different coping strategies on the psychological and physiological stress reaction: An experimental study. European Journal of Health Psychology, 27(3), 109–123.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 7
What are three interventions to provide comfort to the caregiver? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.

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