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Facing the Challenges of Caregiving

Click to view the rest of the May 2013 Newsletter:

When a family member or loved one becomes ill, naturally we focus our energy on

helping them get well. So much so that we can forget the potentially extreme physical and emotional stress on the caregiver. Caregivers often develop hypertension or sleep problems and pre-existing conditions can be exacerbated.

Caregivers must adjust to difficult role changes; whether it’s an adult child caring for a mother or father, a spouse who must assume extra financial or childcare responsibilities, this unfamiliar terrain increases stress. Prior problems in the relationship only compound the issue. These factors are even harder to bear when a patient is suffering from cognitive difficulties. Feelings of isolation and depression are common.

But placing emphasis on self care is the key to a sustainable long term strategy for coping. But where to begin? For answers, we turned to Tina Sapienza LMSW, OSW-C, an Oncology Social Worker at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia. She works with patients  and families dealing with many types of cancer, including brain cancer and brain tumors. By offering support counseling, facilitating support groups, helping resolve insurance issues and providing referrals to home care agencies, hospice programs and community resources, Tina’s career is devoted to helping to ease the burden of cancer for patients and their loved ones.

We asked Tina to provide some tips for self care as well as some productive ways to help loved ones with cognitive impairment from brain tumors.

Five Tips for Caregiver Self Care

1. Get Help

Caregivers often feel overwhelmed with sadness, grief, fear, anxiety, anger and guilt.

It’s important to remember these feelings are natural, normal and above all, not to deny them. Instead, talk it out! Seek out a supportive friend or family member, individual psychotherapy or local support group.

2. Attend to Your Basic Needs

There’s no getting around the critical importance of exercise, sleep and nutrition. You need all three to stay healthy and cope with the stresses of caring for your loved one.

3. Get Relief

Find someone — a friend or family member — who can provide relief through temporary caregiving so you can take some time for yourself. Plan ahead for periods of time when you can rest and be alone.

4. Treat Yourself

Indulge in pleasant, relaxing activities on a regular basis to renew and recharge. Ultimately, it will help you be a better caretaker for your loved one.

5. Remember to Laugh

It really is the best medicine.


Three Tips for Caring for a Patient with Cognitive Impairment

1. Maintain a Consistent Routine

For patients with cognitive impairment, unpredictability is especially upsetting. Where possible, stick to a predictable schedule.

2. Provide Cues

You can help your loved one by demonstrating how a task is done. Break it down into small steps or units to help them cope.

3. Don’t Argue

Never try to reason or argue with a patient with cognitive impairment.

If you would like to join one Tina’s support groups in New York City, click here.


Voices Against Brain Cancer is a not-for-profit public charity recognized by the IRS under 501 (c) (3)