This is a very interesting, and timely article that was written by a doctor about the need for the medical community to be more aware of, and concerned about, the caregivers of their patients. Click Doctor’s need to be more concerned about their patients’ caregivers.
This just came in from our good friend, Claudia Lee , President of C. Z. Lee & Associates, Breast Center Consultations in Hudson, NY. It’s a study released last month at the 6th International Conference of the Society for Integrative Oncology. And the findings are incredible. Here’s what it had to say:
Family caregivers can significantly reduce suffering in cancer patients at home through use of simple touch and massage techniques.
The study, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, evaluated outcomes of a 78-minute DVD instructional program and illustrated manual in a sample of 97 patients and their caregivers. The multi-ethnic sample represented 21 types of cancer (nearly half with breast cancer) and all stages of disease. Caregivers included spouses, adult children, parents, siblings and friends. The project was conducted in Boston, MA, Portland, ME, and Portland, OR using English, Spanish and Chinese languages.
The DVD program is now released to the public, titled “Touch, Caring and Cancer: Simple Instruction for Family and Friends.” in English, Spanish and Chinese. More information and video trailers are available at http://www.partnersinhealing.net.
According to the principal investigator, William Collinge, PhD, president of Collinge and Associates “Touch and massage are among the most effective forms of supportive care in cancer, but most patients cannot access professional practitioners of these methods on a regular basis. This study sought to determine whether family caregivers receiving brief home-based instruction could deliver some of the same benefits as professionals. It appears they can.”
In the study, couples were randomized to either an experimental group using the program, or an attention control group. Caregivers in the experimental group were asked to apply the instruction for at least 20 minutes, three or more times per week for a month. Those in the control group were assigned to read to the patient for the same amounts of time. Patients completed report cards before and after sessions rating their levels of pain, fatigue, stress/anxiety, nausea, depression, and other symptoms.
Results indicated significant reductions for all symptoms after both activities, indicating that companionship alone has a positive effect. However, while symptoms were reduced from 12-28% after reading, massage from the caregiver led to reductions of 29-44%. The greatest impact was on stress/anxiety (44% reduction), followed by pain (34%), fatigue (32%), depression (31%), and nausea (29%). Patients reporting an optional “other” symptom (e.g., headaches) saw reductions of 42% with massage. Caregivers in the massage group also showed gains in confidence and comfort with using touch and massage as forms of caregiving.
According to Collinge, “It appears that family members who receive simple instruction in safety and techniques can achieve some of the same results as professional practitioners. This has important implications not just for patient well-being, but for caregivers as well. Caregivers are at risk of distress themselves – they can feel helpless and frustrated when seeing a loved one suffer. This gives a way to make a difference for the patient, and at the same time increase their own satisfaction and effectiveness as a caregiver. It also appears to strengthen the relationship bond, which is important to both.”
6th International Conference of the Society for Integrative Oncology. November 13, 2009, New York, NY
Society for Integrative Oncology
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I am reading an article in the November 2nd issue of the New Yorker that talks about the future of robots being caregivers. It’s written by Dr. Jerome Groopman, and the piece is called “”Robots that Care: Advances in technological therapy.” The piece talks about robot researchers at the University of Southern California developing robots who assist patients recovering from strokes as well as working with Alzheimer patients. It’s a fascinating piece, especially when it talks about how robots, as caregivers, need to be different with patients who are introverted versus extroverted. Maya Mataric is the lead scientist. Here’s her take on it:
Mataric concluded that, as with human caregivers, temperament would be a key factor. The robots would need to be able to judge whether a patient was introverted or extroverted, and know how to respond in the appropriate manner.
To test their theory, Matarić and her team categorized the personalities of healthy volunteers, using the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, and observed their responses to robots that were programmed to behave as introverts or extroverts. A robot’s degree of sociability was defined by how far it positioned itself from the patient, the speed of its movements, and its type of communication. For people who were more extroverted, Mataric programmed the robot to move close. “We are not talking sociopathically close, because we always maintain three to four feet of
safety distance between the user and the robot,” she explained. “But, with the extroverted robots, they move into your area, and talk with a slightly higher pitch, more words per unit time, and they say things that are more forceful,
like ‘Come on, you can do three more. I know you can do better than that.’ ” The more introverted robots were programmed to stay farther away from the user, to gesticulate less, and to speak with a slightly lower pitch and at a slower tempo. “You don’t want to make the introversion glaring,” Mataric said. The introverted robots also said more soothing things and offered more praise.
To read the whole article go to “Robots that Care,” New Yorker, November 2, 2009