Every cancer diagnosis begins a profound journey that affects not only the cancer survivor, but also the loved ones who accept responsibility for providing care during their often harrowing treatment and recovery. Very few are prepared for the rigors and challenges that await them. Yet caregivers’ needs are frequently overlooked in the race to address the medical and psychosocial support factors that improve patient outcomes. Now, thanks to The Wellness Community - Arizona (TWC) and Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) in Goodyear, all that’s about to change.
“Caregivers are the unsung heroes of cancer treatment,” said Paula Hardison, TWC Executive Director. “They take on enormous responsibility along with the physical challenges, extreme stress and fearful uncertainty that goes with a cancer diagnosis. This can take a serious toll on their health and sense of well-being. National Cancer Survivor Day is an opportunity not only to celebrate survivorship but also to shine a spotlight on the critical role caregivers play as a survivor’s dedicated partner in treatment.”
In Arizona alone, nearly 550,000 caregivers collectively devote about 585 million hours per year to caring for a loved one, providing services valued at more than $5.8B annually. Overall, Arizona ranks 20th nationwide in the number of caregivers and the hours they devote to giving care. Yet, despite their economic and social contributions, caregivers’ challenges are rarely acknowledged. Consider this:
• Nearly a third of American households report that at least one person has served as an unpaid caregiver in the past year.
• Most caregivers (86 percent) are related to the care recipient. The majority of family caregivers are women (66 percent).
• Family caregivers undergoing extreme stress age prematurely, shortening their lives by as much as 10 years.
• A wife's hospitalization increases her husband's chances of dying within a month by 35 percent. A husband's hospitalization boosts his wife's mortality risk by 44 percent.
• 40 to 70 percent of family caregivers show clinically significant symptoms of depression.