We hear a lot about the "costs of lung cancer" in a metaphorical sense. For the loved ones of someone with cancer there are physical and emotional costs so great that we liken them to financial devastation. But the literal costs are staggering as well.
To get a feel for what the average family caregiver for someone with lung cancer faces, researchers queried 83 "distressed" caregivers within 3 months of the first oncology visit for their loved one, and again, 3 months later. The term distressed was used to indicate that the caregivers were struggling emotionally with their loved one's diagnosis. 74 of the 83 caregivers admitted to at least one symptom of depression and anxiety, as well as economic and social changes in their lives.
Socially, caring for their loved one wreaked havoc with their social lives. (Of course, I have to note here that caring for a loved one with cancer is an honor, and it's not really fair to compare such to one's social schedule.) The majority, 56% reported that they had become disengaged from most social and leisure activities.
The financial price tag was high as well. 45% of the employed caregivers stated they had reduced the number of hours worked. 18% had to quit their job to allow for care giving, and 18% said they lost most or all of their family's savings.
When asked what caused the greatest stress overall, loss of the main source of family income and loss of social and leisure activities caused the greatest distress.
Financial losses are difficult, especially in this economy. Yet allowing some time for leisure and social activities sounds like it could be very beneficial for caregivers. Do you know someone who is feeling disconnected socially due to their role as primary caregiver for someone with lung cancer? Or is it you who are in that role? Are there other loved ones who could step in for a day or evening to give you some respite time? It can be difficult to look at your own needs when you're playing the role of caregiver. But it's important to take care of yourself so you can be the best help possible for your loved one. Check out these articles for ideas:
Photo: flickr.com, author fairfaxcounty
Mosher, C. et al. Economic and social changes among distressed family caregivers of lung cancer patients. Supportive Care in Cancer. 2012 Sep 4. (Epub ahead of print).