Brian England and his family are part of the estimated 34 million people in this country who are caregivers for a sick or disabled loved one.
“It was about 6 years ago my mom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is a form of cancer,” he tells us.
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says those caregivers can face significant physical, emotional, and financial challenges.
According to the CDC, 37 percent have had to reduce work hours or quit their job, 53 percent have seen their own health decline, and 29 percent have trouble managing physical or emotional stress.
England says what’s most surprising for his family is what an emotional rollercoaster it can be.
“You may get lashed out at for something that is very miniscule. And the person doesn’t mean it as harsh as they are coming off, but it is the disease that is infecting them.” His family has found help through the Arizona Myeloma Network Cancer Caregiver Education Program.
Barbara Kavanagh founded the network after her husband was diagnosed with myeloma. “What we found is we were helping people build a network of resources,” she says.
She also says it is important to realize there is support not just for patients but caregivers, “It is hard, but you are just so busy, trying to help them and be there for them. You just don’t think about it.”
She advises that a key part of being a good caregiver is also taking care of yourself. “If you don’t take good care of yourself, you won’t be able to help the one you love; and sometimes that feels selfish, but it isn’t.”
At seminars including one this Saturday, caregivers can learn about insurance, nursing care, and what kinds of questions to ask doctors, “They have the list of questions; here is what you want to find out . Once you get your labs, write down the questions you want to ask.”
England says it has also provided a support group where caregivers learn to care for loved ones and each other. “Being a caregiver, you have to care. I mean, it is no one specific thing you have to do. Just be there; listen. “
Again, there is a free seminar this Saturday. It is at the Marriott Courtyard in Scottsdale, 5201 N Pima Road. To register visit www.azmyelomanetwork.org or call 623-466-6246.