The number of informal caregivers who look after older adults with cancer is on the rise. Caregivers could be relatives, partners, or even friends who provide assistance to people in order to help them function.
Most older people with cancer live at home and are dependent on informal caregivers for support with their cancer treatment, symptom management, and daily activities. Caregiving itself can also take a toll on a caregiver’s own physical and emotional well-being, which makes it important to ensure the proper supports are in place.
Until now, no large study has evaluated whether or not caring for older adults with advanced cancer is linked to caregivers’ emotional health or to their quality of life. Recently, researchers studied a group of adults aged 70 or older who had advanced cancer (as well as other challenges). This study used information from older patients with advanced cancer and their caregivers from local oncology practices enrolled in the “Improving Communication in Older Cancer Patients and Their Caregivers” study conducted through the University of Rochester National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program Research Base between October 2014 and April 2017. Results from the study were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
MULTITASKER AND FAMILY provider. Always attentive, do-it-all parent. Handyperson, cook and family vacation planner. Busy, active spouse who still finds time for fun. People tend to take healthy loved ones and all they contribute for granted – until chronic pain throws a wrench into what once was a comfortable household.
Chronic pain disrupts the balance of give and take among spouses, parents and children. Drastic shifts in a family member’s ability to function, financial burdens from reduced income and rising medical costs, and the ever-present awareness of suffering can’t help but take a toll at home. Breezy conversations of the past can become emotionally loaded minefields.
Young children may blame themselves when parents seem angry or impatient. Kids can feel neglected when their mom or dad can’t attend school activities or sporting events and they may resent the loss of attention. Kids sometimes have to take on additional chores or unaccustomed caregivingroles.
GIVEN THAT SO MANY older adults prefer to age in place for as long as possible, the assistance of home health aides has become a major industry and means of helping people stay in their homes longer. But it’s a sector of the senior housing market that’s often recognized more for its challenges than for how it can empower families to live their best lives.
As both a consumer of home health aide services and a senior care industry insider, Matt Perrin, co-founder of the independent online senior living facility review site Ro & Steve, says the challenge families face when arranging stable and qualified in-home senior care services are pressing, and very real.
“For us as consumers, it just comes down to a stability issue,” he says, explaining how arranging appropriate care for his wife’s father, who lives with them in New Hampshire, has been an ongoing process that requires flexibility and a lot of advocacy. From simple logistics of making sure the Perrin family has coverage when they need it to making sure the caregivers they’re working with are a good fit for his father-in-law’s temperament and medical conditions, the whole endeavor is an ongoing process that has involved working with several agencies and many different caregivers.
Dr. Oanh Le Meyer had recently started studying health disparities in Vietnamese Americans with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers when she first noticed symptoms in her own mother about five years ago.
First Meyer’s mom started asking the same questions over and over. Then the complex meals she would cook became simpler. By the time Meyer published her first study on support programs for those caring for Vietnamese Americans with dementia in 2015, she was one of her mom’s primary caregivers.
“There’s a grieving process to it that continues,” Meyer said. “But I think, being a scientist, I approached it more this is just an illness taking over her brain.”
We hear repeatedly that without family caregivers, our long-term services system would be stretched to the breaking point. Family caregivers make it possible for so many of our nation’s citizens to remain independent, living in the settings of their choice.
Supporting families and family caregivers in their efforts to assist their friends and loved ones is at the very core of the mission of the Administration for Community Living. That gives us a tremendous opportunity to advance how we think about supporting families that include older adults who need assistance in their later years, people with disabilities at every stage of their lives, or both. We also have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of real people, through programs that provide support to families and caregivers.
Every November, we stop to recognize and thank family caregivers for all they do on behalf of their loved ones. This year, I think we have even more reason to be thankful, to celebrate family caregivers, and to be optimistic for the future of family caregiver support.
‘I need this — can you grab my pills?’ ‘Can you help me with this?’ ‘Can you go in my bag and get me my medicine?’
For more than half of her 16 years, 10th grader Destiny has answered calls like this to help her grandmother and great-grandmother manage their medications.
“I’ve been helping out basically most of my life,” she said.
Despite the essential role Destiny and other youth caregivers play, little is known about how they learn to manage medications, what they know about the medicine they administer, and what kind of rewards and challenges they encounter day to day.
To find out more, Julia Belkowitz, M.D., M.P.H., a University of Miami Miller School of Medicine physician-researcher and pediatrician, and colleagues studied 28 middle school and high school students 12 to 19 years old. Their study is the first of its kind to take a comprehensive look at this population; they reported their findings online in the Journal of Adolescence.
By 2034, all of America’s baby boomers will be over the age of 70, many living with complex health care needs and multiple chronic conditions.
A well-trained direct-care workforce will be critical to keeping those baby boomers safely in their homes as they age. Without one, experts predict, public and private insurers will struggle in meeting the population’s needs.
The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that works to promote bipartisanship on key issues facing the United states, highlighted the need to support the country’s direct-care workforce in a report released on Thursday.
Voters in Maine were presented with a ballot measure that would have provided disabled adults or people over the age of 65 with full-time, long-term care in their own homes, at no cost to individuals or their families. It was hailed by supporters as a visionary model for ensuring support for vulnerable people, one that could be rolled out in other states as the US elder population grows.
Alas, it’s a vision whose time has not yet come. Voters in Maine soundly defeated Question 1 at the polls on Tuesday (Nov. 6).
Maine is one of the fastest-aging states in the US. People aged 65 and older there are expected to outnumber those under 18 by 2020, a full 15 years before the US as a whole reaches that crucial threshold.
The vast majority of seniors prefer to age in their own homes. The availability and affordability of in-home care in Maine, however, is among the poorest in the nation. Without access to home care, family members typically shoulder the work—along with the financial cost of their own lost wages—to care for elderly relatives.
IT STARTS OUT SLOWLY, almost imperceptibly. The misplaced keys. The forgotten birthday or anniversary. Using the wrong word or losing the thread in mid-conversation. These are often dismissed as typical signs of aging, but in some people, they may be the earliest signs that something bigger is at work – the development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. When a doctor diagnoses dementia or Alzheimer’s in your loved one, you should be sure to ask a lot of questions to make sure you understand your loved one’s current state of being and so you can appropriately prepare for how this progressive disease could change over time.
1. Is it Alzheimer’s or another kind of dementia?
There are several types of cognitive decline people may experience. “Dementia is simply an umbrella term,” says Dr. Susann Varano, a geriatrician at Maplewood Senior Living, a Westport, Connecticut–based senior living residence company. “If a physician says, ‘you have dementia,’ it’s the same thing as saying, ‘you have cancer.'” She says it’s critical to pinpoint exactly which type of dementia it is. “Is it Lewy body dementia? Is it vascular? Is it a frontotemporal disorder? Is it mixed dementia? Is it Alzheimer’s disease?” Although all dementias affect the brain and cognitive function, “each of those types of dementias have a different path. Some accelerate more than others and some have different presenting symptoms, so it’s very important to get the actual diagnosis of dementia.”