Wednesday 14 January 2015, 10:42 | By Adam Hallows
In the news January 2015 – caring for our carers
Despite expecting the usual Christmas lull, there was actually a great deal of news relating to palliative care, creative arts therapies and digital health that we’ve tweeted about in recent weeks, and you’ll notice a strong theme and connection between our three sections as we touch upon various aspects of caring for people living with chronic conditions. We hope you find them of interest too.
ART THERAPY HELPING PEOPLE – AND THEIR FAMILIES – FACE CANCER
In an effort to bring a little festive cheer, in the run-up to Christmas, University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Centre Art Therapist Fran Belvin has been running art therapy workshops making Christmas decorations.
Her efforts go beyond bringing some holiday spirit to those facing cancer though, as Fran points out, “research has shown that art making significantly reduces the stress hormones in the brain and elevates mood”.
As reported by University of Kentucky News, Fran explains that “Art therapy is a way for patients to express themselves…a way to explore fears, hopes, and talk about their cancer journey… Making art and talking about it feels a little less formal, less threatening than if a counsellor were to sit down and say ‘How are you feeling today?’”.
From a CSL perspective, it is particularly interesting that Fran’s workshops were also aimed at helping the families and carers of those facing cancer. So often the difficulties and emotional issues for parents, children, and siblings of people with cancer are overlooked, so it is encouraging to see how art therapy is also benefitting the support networks for people coping with chronic illnesses.
WHAT LIFE CAN BE LIKE AS A YOUNG CARER
On a similar thread, there was a very moving article in the Guardian last month written by Charles Lambert who explains the challenges of being a young carer and touches on some key issues we at CSL are also keen to address.
Charles was just 12-years-old when his father – aged 76 – had cancer and then a stroke, resulting in him needing full-time care from his family.Charles writes poignantly: “… I was angry with Dad for not getting better, frustrated by the speed, or lack, of recovery and beginning to grieve for the loss of the father I’d known.” He goes on to explain how his education suffered because he was distracted by his important responsibilities at home and how young carers “are often invisible out of family loyalty, stigma or bullying.”
The article is a challenging read, but not without its positive message about the power of good care, as Charles points out: “Dad, however, was very much alert and alive. Just trapped in his body. For those people who jump to the “better off dead” pronouncement, I’m not convinced. Yes, for 10 years he was unable to speak, often unable to hear, unable to write, but very alert. He often used to sit in silence just looking at me or mum, smiling, content to be with his family, at home and being looked after.”
Charles’ account serves to remind us again of the importance of palliative care to help provide families and carers with practical – and emotional – support, a belief that is at the core of our campaign at CSL.
NEW APP HELPS CARERS MONITOR ELDERLY RELATIVES
Following on from Charles’ story, we’d like to highlight a new app that was launched last month which could help carers monitor their elderly relatives.
The Elder Care App is described by mHealthWatch as an “all-in-one senior care coordination tool” that tracks daily activities such as sleeping times, meals, tasks, medicine administration and medical records. The information can then be shared with other carers responsible for the person.
“The goal of this app is to help make sure that we can improve the care for our loved ones by ensuring everyone on the care team has the same information at the same time,” says Dr. Devin Jopp, Founder of the Elder Care App. The app has received some positive feedback so far, and it’ll be interesting to see how this digital tool can be utilised in palliative care in future.
Finally, we tweeted recently about the encouraging news that Health and Fitness was the fastest growing app category of 2014, according to another mHealthWatch post. There are now 100,000 mobile health apps – double the number available two years ago – and the mHealth app market is reportedly worth $4 billion and could increase to $26 billion by 2017. Stats aside, we are looking forward to keeping tabs on which digital health tools rise to the top and become part of our everyday lifestyle, how they reduce costs for healthcare providers and how caregiver arts therapies can be integrated in such tools too. As ever, we’ll keep you posted.
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