Can­cer car­ers highly stressed

Midwest Times - - NEWS - Cathy O'Leary

A WA study has found it is of­ten more stress­ful car­ing for some­one with can­cer than hav­ing the dis­ease.

A sur­vey by the Can­cer Coun­cil WA, re­leased as part of Na­tional Car­ers Week, has re­vealed dan­ger­ously high lev­els of dis­tress in can­cer car­ers in Perth and re­gional ar­eas — even more than the lev­els in can­cer pa­tients.

Us­ing a “dis­tress ther­mome­ter”, the sur­vey found 90 per cent of car­ers had a score of four or more on a scale of zero to 10, with the high­est lev­els in the Perth Hills, the South West and the metropoli­tan area. It com­pared with 75 per cent of can­cer pa­tients with a high stress rat­ing.

Car­ers com­plained of strug­gling phys­i­cally, men­tally and fi­nan­cially as a re­sult of look­ing af­ter some­one with can­cer.

More than 95 per cent of car­ers were dis­tressed by emo­tional is­sues, three-quar­ters blamed phys­i­cal prob­lems and two-thirds were dis­tressed by fam­ily prob­lems.

It is es­ti­mated about 320,000 West Aus­tralians are car­ers.

The coun­cil’s can­cer in­for­ma­tion and sup­port ser­vices direc­tor Me­lanie Marsh said the re­sults mir­rored those from a 2014 sur­vey and showed the well­be­ing of car­ers needed to be re­sourced as much as pa­tient care. “The high phys­i­cal, psy­choso­cial and eco­nomic bur­den car­ried by care­givers is un­der­re­ported and un­der-re­sourced,” Mrs Marsh said.

“Our cur­rent health sys­tem is pa­tient-cen­tric and can­cer pa­tients reg­u­larly re­port feel­ing like they’re kept in a bub­ble dur­ing treat­ment, sur­rounded by doc­tors, nurses and spe­cial­ists.”

Mrs Marsh said un­paid car­ers took a huge bur­den off the pub­lic health sys­tem and their dis­tress man­i­fested in dif­fer­ent ways.

“Dis­tress is a mix of anx­i­ety and de­pres­sive symp­toms and can cause sleep­less­ness, lack of ap­petite, trou­ble con­cen­trat­ing and dif­fi­culty car­ry­ing on reg­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties,” she said. “Al­though some dis­tress is nor­mal, we’re see­ing car­ers re­port­ing above a self­man­age­able level, which is very con­cern­ing.”

Mrs Marsh said the prob­lem was likely much greater than the sur­vey re­vealed.

“Our ex­pe­ri­ence tells us the lack of strong so­cial sup­port net­works such as those that ex­ist within coun­try com­mu­ni­ties means that iron­i­cally, peo­ple in metro ar­eas tend to feel more iso­lated,” she said.

Be­sides free coun­selling and aid pack­ages for el­i­gi­ble re­cip­i­ents, the Can­cer Coun­cil runs free med­i­ta­tion, ex­er­cise and yoga classes for car­ers in its Life Now pro­gram.

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