While much of the discussion around cancer focuses on new treatments and their impact on cancer patients, until relatively recently, family members of cancer patients have often gotten lost in the shuffle.
“Family caregivers provide the vast majority of care for people with cancer across all phases of illness,” said Dr. Betty Ferrell, a leading researcher on nursing and cancer palliative care at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, CA. “Yet they are often unprepared for this task and undervalued for their care.”
“Family caregivers can really struggle,” added Jo Hanson, an oncology nurse and senior research specialist at City of Hope.
And caring for loved ones with cancer is only getting harder. “Patients are being discharged when they are much more acutely ill,” Hanson said.
Oncology nurses and social workers are typically caregivers’ first line of support, Hanson explained. So it’s no surprise that oncology nurses represent the largest portion of participants in an educational program called the Family Caregiver Project , for which Dr. Ferrell is the principal investigator and Hanson the project director.
The NCI-funded program is intended to provide oncology care professionals with the tools and information needed to help cancer family caregivers care for themselves and their loved ones.
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