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Mar 15, 2023

Care for the Caregiver with Dr. Nick Dionne-Odom | EP36 Cancering

This episode of the Cancering Show focuses on the importance of caregivers in the cancer journey. Dr. Jennifer Young Pierce talks with Dr. Nick Dionne-Odom, associate professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and co-director of Caregiver and Bereavement Support Services in the UAB Center for Palliative and Supportive Care. They discuss what it means to be a caregiver, how caregiving for someone with a terminal diagnosis is different from caring for those with earlier stage cancers, the physical and mental toll that caregiving can take, and the resources available to help caregivers. 

Plus, Dr. Nick Dionne-Odom discusses his research on cancer caregiving. Dr. Dionne-Odom has developed several programs to help family caregivers of cancer patients manage stress and cope with the challenges of caregiving. He discusses his research findings, which show that these programs are beneficial for caregivers, and provides advice on how family and friends can help caregivers. He also talks about the importance of having access to one-on-one support for caregivers, no matter where they live. Lastly, he discusses the grieving process and the types of support available for those who have recently lost a loved one.

"We find that many caregivers that we work with have this feeling that they need to be available 24/7 to this person, be there at all times, and that all activities, all priorities need to be centered around the patient. If one does that and you do not take care of your own health, that is not a sprint; it is a marathon. And being able to take care of yourself is actually a very important way that you can take care of this person." 

– Dr. Nick Dionne-Odom  

Episode Takeaways: 

Caregivers are essential in the cancer journey. 

Caregiving for someone with a terminal diagnosis is different than caring for those with earlier stage cancers. 

Caregiving can have a physical and mental toll on the caregiver. 

It is normal to feel anxiety and depression when caring for someone with cancer. 

There are resources available to help caregivers. 

Dr. Dionne-Odom has developed programs to help family caregivers of cancer patients manage stress and cope with the challenges of caregiving.

Caregivers often experience isolation and may not want to burden their social networks. 

Offering specific types of assistance (e.g. cutting the grass, walking the dog, picking up the mail, doing the laundry, making meals etc.) is more likely to be accepted. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to grieving. Everyone processes loss differently, and it can take months and even years to go through the process. 

There is support available for those who have recently lost a loved one, such as the Medicare hospice benefit.

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USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute
The Cancering Show is brought to you by USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute. MCI is a cutting-edge cancer research and treatment center built to fight cancer smarter in Mobile and Baldwin counties in Alabama. Our researchers and clinicians focus daily on the struggle against cancer, serving a potential catchment population of more than 4.1 million people, with a singular focus of advancing cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention throughout the Gulf Coast and beyond with science, technology and hope.

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