Tag Archive for: caregiver

Roles Reversed: Taking Care of Your Care Partner

Roles Reversed: Taking Care of Your Care Partner from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

MPN Network Managers Summer and Jeff are experiencing a bit of a change. Jeff is Summer’s care partner, however the roles have been reversed. Jeff recently had a knee replacement and is unable to do many tasks he was before. Summer has jumped in taking care of Jeff, but admits it’s harder than it looks. Watch and hear Summer’s comedic take on switching roles and stepping into the care partner role.  

Want to connect with Jeff and Summer? Email them at question@powerfulpatients.org or text EMPOWER to (833) 213-6657. 

Transcript:

Jeff:

Summer! Bring me a snack.

Summer:

Yes, I’m bringing you a chocolate bonbon.

Jeff:

I don’t want a Ghirardelli, I want a Walker’s shortbread.

Summer:

Ugh, yes sir.

Being a caregiver is not a day in the park.

Jeff:

Hi, I’m Jeff.

Summer:

I’m Summer, hi.

Jeff:

We’re your MPN Network Managers for the Patient Empowerment Network. We’re here today to continue talking about caregiving. In the last video, we talked about me being Summer’s caregiver and or different roles and what I bring to that and so on. We had a chance in the last month to actually turn the tables.

In mid-December I had a knee replacement and since then, Summer has been acting as my caregiver. Tell us how it’s been, Summer.

Summer:

Ugh, it’s been exhausting. I’m driving, I’m doing dishes, I’m emptying the garbage, I’m cooking all the meals, I’m getting everything exactly the way you want. You’re lot more of a perfectionist than I am…

Jeff:

Yup, I should be able to drive in another week or so and Summer hates driving, so I really appreciated that. And pretty soon I’ll get back to my role of doing the driving anyway. She’s done a wonderful job, really been very helpful and I’ve been extremely appreciative of it. What’s been the hardest thing for you, Summer?

Summer:

Thinking about all the little things you take for granted that you couldn’t do, like mailing your letters and emptying your garbage. That’s everything, you really have to be on the ball and think of what the needs of the other person really are.

Jeff:

Very true. We stressed that in the last video. Needs of the patient. We have a real supportive relationship in our normal marriage in general, so for us it’s not difficult, but some people may have a difficult time adjusting to being a caregiver or even being a patient.

Summer:

Right.

Jeff:

One thing you have to remember, give the caregiver time for themselves. I think I did a pretty good job trying to give you time for yourself.

Summer:

Yeah, I did my aerobics, I visited friends, I rehearsed for the play, I did my stand-up comedy, yeah, I did.

Jeff:

So, it’s worked well for us. So, as you enter into this relationship of patient and caregiver, be aware of each person’s needs. And, you should have a good experience with it.

Summer:

Darling, I have an urge for a chocolate cookie. Could you bring me one? I gotta take a nap.

Jeff:

Certainly. I’ll get it after we say goodbye to the people. Goodbye, ’til next time.

Summer:

Bye, ’til next time.

Patient and Care Partner Address the Mental Aspects of an MPN

Patient and Care Partner Address the Mental Aspects of an MPN from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

MPN patient Summer emphasizes how important it is to have goals. One of her personal goals is to walk 10,000 steps each day! As a care partner, Jeff shares his main goal is to do whatever he can to help Summer achieve her goals. Some of their shared goals are to live life to the fullest, always live in the moment and don’t let the disease you have control your life.  

Want to connect with Jeff and Summer? Email them at question@powerfulpatients.org or text EMPOWER to (833)213-6657. 

Transcript:

Jeff:

Hi, I’m Jeff.

Summer:

Hi, I’m Summer. And hi, I’m Zelda.

Jeff:

And we’re your MPN Network Managers for the Patient Empowerment Network. Here to talk to you today about emotional and metal aspects of dealing with a severe or very serious disease. Summer has some real strong thoughts about that, so I’m going to let her tell you about it.

Summer:

Well, I think it’s really important to always have goals. And one of my first goals, this is my Apple Watch right here to keep track of my steps so I can get 10,000 steps a day. That’s really important. Of course, I’m still teaching my classes. That’s very inspiring. We’re putting on a show pretty soon. And my goal right now too is I’m getting ready for my next comedy show. I’m going to talk about the cloud and about those little people that are in the traffic signs that tell you when to stop or go. And of course I’ve got Zelda and I don’t know what her goal is, just to be a good dog. So, that’s what my goals are. To stay positive.

Jeff:

And Summer has those goals, but one serious and important thing that we decided when she got this disease was we were going to live every life, every moment of our lives to the fullest, in the moment. And that took some adjusting because I’m a real planner. We pay attention to enjoying everything that we do, each day that we do it. And, we decided early on not to change our lifestyle, not to let the disease control us, and just to keep going. And, that alone plus Summer’s fantastic exercise regimen has really done a lot to keep her in good shape and to keep her strong.

As a caregiver, my goals are do whatever I can to help her achieve her goals. So, it’s really important to live life in the moment and keep a positive attitude. Don’t let the disease control you. That’s our advice.

‘Til next time, I’m Jeff.

Summer:

I’m Summer and I’m Zelda.

Breaching Cultural Barriers in Cancer Caregiving

Humanity is diverse with no two persons being alike. We all face our own struggles, we all have our own ways of handling the hardships life throws at us. While we all may face similar obstacles, that doesn’t mean that each encounter is the same. Cancer comes in many forms with many faces and each person’s experience with it is incredibly unique.

Because the struggle with cancer is as diverse as the people who handle it, it’s imperative that healthcare providers and caregivers alike strive to understand the values and perspectives that shape the cancer patient’s approach to treatment. Among the most important aspects of this is in learning to breach the cultural barriers involved in cancer caregiving.

The Significance of Transcultural Nursing

Culture plays a powerful role in nearly every aspect of human life. It shapes what we do and it informs how we see others, how we see ourselves, and how we see our world. Culture also plays a pivotal role in defining how we understand and respond to illness.

For this reason, the effort to understand a patient’s culture is essential in providing high-quality care. This is where transcultural nursing comes in, particularly when it comes to caring for marginalized and traditionally underserved patient populations, such as low-income patients who live in remote areas.

At the heart of transcultural nursing is the effort to understand how a patient’s culture has influenced their health practices. Transcultural nurses leverage this understanding to devise personalized treatment plans that not only serve the patient’s health needs, but that also respect and align with their personal values and beliefs.

Such efforts are especially critical in cancer care, when recommended courses of treatment may sometimes clash with the patient’s wishes. All too often, indeed, healthcare providers may unwittingly dismiss, disparage, or disrespect a patient’s worldview and in the process undermine their right to bodily autonomy simply because the patient’s perspective does not line up with the practitioner’s view of “the science.”

A transcultural approach to patient care, though, can go far in making the exam room a “judgment-free” zone. If we want patients to be truly empowered, if we want them to enjoy and to exercise the self-determination that is their right, then they must first understand that clinicians will respect their beliefs without judgment, even if they do not share them.

Cultivating a “judgment-free” environment in the healthcare system is often the first, most difficult, and most important step in the process of shared decision-making, a process in which the patient’s self-defined goals, needs, and values carry as much, if not more, weight than the clinical data.

End of Life Care

Though hundreds of thousands of people around the world are winning their fight against cancer every day, the reality remains that, for some, victory over cancer will not mean survival. It will, rather, be defined not only by how the patient chooses to fight but also by how they choose to withdraw from it.

And this, too, is a decision that is often deeply imbricated in the patient’s cultural perspectives on illness, death, and dying.

If the patient is a person of faith, for instance, then they may be unwilling to undergo invasive surgeries or grueling treatments to prolong their lives. Healthcare providers and caregivers must endeavor to understand patients’ views of their own mortality and how these shape the patient’s choices regarding treatment.

Considering the Caregiver

As important as it is for care providers to understand the patient’s culture, it is equally important for caregivers to carefully reflect on their own values, perspectives, and beliefs, as these can and do strongly influence patient care practices, even at the subconscious level.

For instance, cultural values regarding quality-of-life issues may compel healthcare teams and informal caregivers alike to unconsciously scale back in their efforts with those patients whom they believe are enduring a “life not worth living.” These cultural perspectives also often obfuscate the fact that quality of life assessments are highly subjective and that these may easily conflict with the patient’s and family’s perspectives on what makes life worth living.

In the case of cancer care, for instance, patients and families may be willing to pursue a litany of experimental treatments, treatments that may seem both outrageous and futile to healthcare providers, who may feel that the patient has long since exceeded the subjective threshold for the “intolerable” quality of life.

In such cases, a caregiver who does not understand the personal and cultural factors informing quality of life perspectives is unlikely to be able to build the kind of trusting, respectful, and supportive relationships that patients need from their healthcare team.

The Takeaway

In many ways, culture defines who we are, what we do, and what we believe. It also strongly shapes our views about and responses to potentially life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer. For that reason, it is incumbent on caregivers to break through the cultural barriers separating them from their patients. Only then will patients enjoy the respectful, empathetic care they deserve.

How Can Care Partners Combat Burnout?

How Can Care Partners Combat Burnout? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Care partners Diahanna, Sherea, and Patricia discuss how they have learned to overcome burnout. Often times when caring for a loved one, we don’t even realize the burnout until after the fact. As care partners, you have to know when to step away and take time for yourself, so you can effectively care for and support your loved one. 


Transcript

Diahanna:

Hello, we’re going to talk about care partner burnout. So the question I would like to pose is, how would you describe caregiver burnout? And how do you feel it coming on? And how can you counteract it? And Patricia or Sherea, either one of you can answer those questions, it would be great to hear from you.

Patricia:

Let me just start with, I have been a caregiver. Although I am right now experiencing multiple myeloma, my father had multiple myeloma and passed in 1990 and I was his caregiver. At that time, a very young person. So, he actually had to have part of his breast bone removed and they left the wound open, and it had to be pack everyday, twice a day with gauze and an iodine thing. And so, my mom could just not do it and my though was, well she can’t, I have to. So every morning before work, I would go and take care of him in that way. Every evening when I came home from work, before he went to bed, I would go over and do the same thing. And that went on for several months. Because I was young and because I really did not have any understanding of what as going on with my father. I mean multiple myeloma, what is that? Not like today. Today there is information. You know you go online, you can find the information. It worked out anyway that I was able to take care of him. I didn’t know that I even had a burnout cause I just continued to do what I was doing. I worked everyday, I had three kids, you jut do what you have to do and I think that’s what most caregivers get to a point of saying to themselves, “I’ll do what I have to do”. And whether they know they have burnout or not, they just do it.

Diahanna:

You know, I think that is very interesting, Patricia, because I think women have a tendency to do that more so than man because we are already maternal. We’re caregivers.

Patricia:

Yeah.

Diahanna:

And we, if someone else drops the ball, and you know we are used to being on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, vacation or not. And so, we do always step in and tack up the slack and put ourselves on the back burner. A lot of the time we don’t realize we’re burnout until after the fact.

Patricia:

Way after.

Diahanna:

And we have no more energy. We have nothing else to give ourselves. So Sherea, how would you describe it? How would you look at this?

Sherea:

I would describe…I was a caregiver for my father, now I’m doing some caregiving for my mother who is having some memory issues. And what I can tell you about the feeling is, the feeling of being overwhelmed, the feeling of pressure, and what I notice with is that I have a short fuse. When I’m feeling burnout, things that normally would just not be a problem become an issue. And so, what I try to do is recognize that I’m having a moment and that I’m going to need to step away for a little bit and get recentered. And I do understand that yes, as women, we just do what we have to do, but there does come a point where you have just had it. You’re at the end of the rope. And I’m starting to recognize that more. So it is a feeling of pressure and just being overwhelmed. And the moment I start feeling it, it used to be I kind of just keep pushing, but now the moment I start feeling it, ok let’s work on that now so it doesn’t become an issue later.

Diahanna:

Mhmm. I can appreciate that. When I was taking care of my husband, I probably put myself in a position where I was taking care of him at times when he didn’t need to be taken care of. It was that thing as I felt I could do better or more for him that he probably didn’t know about or I thought he didn’t know about. And I was mistaken on that. It got to the point where I wasn’t sleeping, there was a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, I wasn’t eating well, and I was getting colds all the time, which I normally wouldn’t get. So my immune system, everything, was messed up as a result of what I was doing. And I remember coming home from work thinking I can’t do this anymore. If I’m going to be a partner to him, I have to step aside. And I called because I was going to every appointment, I was looking at everything, I was doing all the research because he thought he didn’t have to research as long as he felt good, everything was ok. He said, “I’m going to let you be the person that worries because I know you worry enough for the both of us.” And I did. I worried enough for everybody in the household and it was taking me down a path of being mentally, physically, emotionally stressed. And I had to step away and say, “Honey, I don’t need to go to all your appointments. I don’t need to continue to do this.” And that’s how I realized that I was doing way too much and that I was going to be doing a disservice to him – to everybody in my household.

How an MPN Care Partner Handles Burnout

How an MPN Care Partner Handles Burnout from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

MPN Network Managers Summer and Jeff discuss care partner burnout. Jeff is the caregiver of Summer who is living with myelofibrosis. Jeff admits to doing majority of the research so he can properly advocate for Summer’s care. In this video, Jeff talks about various outlets he uses to counteract burnout such as photography, music and improv theater.

Want to connect with Jeff and Summer? Email them at question@powerfulpatient.org or text EMPOWER to (833)213-6657.

 


Transcript

Summer:

Wake up. I’ve finished making your bonbons, Jeff. You said you wanted these.

Jeff:

Thank you, Summer. Mmm.

Summer:

Is it delicious?

Jeff:

It’s delicious. Just what I needed.

Summer:

Well, I’m glad I could please you.

Jeff:

Well, I’m Jeff.

Summer:

I’m Summer.

Jeff:

And we’re your MPN Network Managers for the Patient Empowerment Network. We’re here to talk to you today about…

Summer:

What caregivers do, and sometimes caregivers might get burned out. So, we’re talking about what you can do periodically to not get burned out, to keep going, and being great like you are. What are some of the main things you do, Jeff?

Jeff:

Well, I…one of the main things I do is try to remove myself from worrying about myelofibrosis and Summer’s disease. And I go out into nature and I take a lot of nature pictures. I go to National Parks, and take pictures of scenery, beautiful scenery, and big mammals and stuff, which I really really enjoy doing. It sort of clears my head and really refreshes me. I recently took a trip, as a matter of fact, to Yosemite. That’s one of the things I do.

Summer:

And another thing has to do with music.

Jeff:

Yes, I love music and I play in a band. I play the keyboard and the guitar, and I do that once a week at my church and I really really…again it requires quite a bit of focus and it puts my mind in a completely different place. So I remove myself from the worries, is one of the things I do. I’m very fortunate because Summer is doing quite well and doesn’t need huge amounts of physical care.

Summer:

Right, but you do all of the medical stuff because I can’t stand to hear about medical stuff, it’s boring.

Jeff:

That’s right. I do do a lot of the research and keep up with what’s going on in the myelofibrosis area and that’s kind of what my portion of the caregiving is. We’ve talked before about working with, dealing with these disease requires a team approach: the patient, the caregiver, and the medical team.

Summer:

Right.

Jeff:

It’s very important.

Summer:

And we also do improv. That really helps.

Jeff:

That’s correct. We’ve mentioned before that we run a small theater, and one of the things we do in the theater is improvisational theater. We make things up, now you’ve got to be in the moment, so your head can’t be disclouded and worrying about other things. It takes your mind off of the disease, and in my case, worrying about Summer’s disease and the caregiving responsibilities. So that helps us. It actually helps both of us a lot.

Summer:

Right. So do you want any more bonbons or is that a no?

Jeff:

I’ll just take another bite. You know, if we keep going like this, you could become the caregiver and I’ll be the patient. So until next time, I’m Jeff.

Summer:

I’m Summer.

Jeff:

Bye!

Summer:

Bye!

Care Partner Profile: Mike Crocker

The first time Mike Crocker became a care partner was in 2016 when his wife Dr. Gerri Smoluk was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). The second time was in 2020 when, after being in remission for four years, Gerri was diagnosed with leukemia again. The two experiences couldn’t have been more different, says Mike.

Gerri’s first diagnosis came shortly after she started a new job. Gerri, who had a PhD in biochemistry, worked in the pharmaceutical industry. She was feeling tired a lot, but she was brushing it off, blaming it on the stress that comes with a new job. However, Mike urged her to see a doctor, so Gerri had a coworker, who was also a doctor, check her out. The coworker sent Gerri directly to the emergency room. She was admitted and was in the hospital for 45 days undergoing chemotherapy. “She had a very severe case,” says Mike.

It was overwhelming to say the least, but Mike quickly took on the role of caregiver. He soon realized that the simple things were the most helpful. Mike made sure to bring Gerri some of the comforts of home. He made sure she had t-shirts and sweatshirts to wear instead of hospital gowns. He brought Gerri her laptop and yarn for crocheting. He brought her the few foods that she could actually taste after the chemo wiped out her taste buds. Mike was also her sounding board. He listened as she talked through her care options and how they would affect her quality of life. He was simply there for her, walking with her daily so she could get some exercise and maintain circulation, so she didn’t have to stay in bed with the compression sleeves on her legs. “I did all the little things that could help her be a little more in control and have as close to a normal day as possible,” says Mike adding that Gerri’s background in biochemistry and the pharmaceutical industry gave her unique insight into her care. “She started charting her tests and data so she could be a part of the solution and have informed discussions with doctors. She wanted details and wanted to know what to expect.”

Mike and Gerri learned that patients and care partners are given overwhelming amounts of information and that they have the responsibility of learning all they can and asking questions and making decisions. He says that doctors aren’t always keeping up with the latest research and that it is easy for them to get stuck in routine treatments. He found that doctors talk about options based on their experience and their skill set, but that doesn’t mean that approach is best for the patient. He says that being comfortable with the doctor and getting a second opinion if wanted are also important. He and Gerri learned to be active participants in her treatment and care.

In addition, Mike and Gerri were always looking ahead and focusing on the future. He concentrated on keeping her spirits up. When she was bald from chemo Gerri was looking at wigs and Mike says he encouraged her to go wild and get a bright red wig. “She didn’t go for it but being outrageous and adding humor to the moment was a way for me to help,” he says.

It was while she was in her fourth year of remission that Gerri found Patient Empowerment Network (PEN). “Gerri liked PEN’s focus on making the information understandable for patients, giving them easy-to-digest information to make decisions,” says Mike. Gerri jumped right in and helped to develop the Network Manager program which launched in March 2020. The program is made up of volunteers around the country who use their own patient experience to support patients and their care partners through their own cancer journey and on to a path to empowerment. “PEN is very important because it is patient-focused,” Mike says, and that’s why PEN appealed to Gerri. She liked that she could use her scientific background to help patients understand the information and to make sensible decisions for themselves. Gerri served as the AML Network Manager and was named a finalist for the 2020 Reuters Patient Champion Award in the Patient Advocate category.

Then in July 2020, Gerri got her second diagnosis. She celebrated her birthday July 7 and a week later, Gerri was back in the hospital. “This time she had a second type of leukemia which threw doctors for a loop,” says Mike. “Usually when leukemia patients relapse, it’s with the same type of leukemia.”

Although they had been through a leukemia diagnosis before, this experience was nothing like the first. “It was very different. It was during covid so of course, unlike before, when she could have friends drop in, she no longer could have visitors. Everything was more restrictive with covid,” says Mike. “At least I could be there every day.”

This time, Gerri and Mike were not expecting a longer hospital stay. They were expecting outpatient treatment that would be easier, and they were looking forward to time away from the hospital. The first time was so scary, but this time they were experienced, and they knew what to expect, but what they expected is not what happened.

After about a week Gerri got worse. Doctors were trying to figure out what was wrong, but they were unable to save her. Gerri died July 27, 2020. The autopsy revealed she had an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection.

More than a year later, Mike says he’s doing okay. “Everyone handles it differently,” he says. “You have to give yourself permission to not be happy and also give yourself permission to keep going and find other things to fill the hole.” In September 2021, he retired from his career as a web project manager, and recently he reached out to PEN looking for a way to use his skills to help others. “Gerri was the driver, so now I’ve been drifting,” he says. “That’s why I contacted PEN. I wanted to do something of value.”

Mike will be an invaluable addition to the PEN network of volunteers.

What Key Steps Should Follow a Myeloma Diagnosis?

What Key Steps Should Follow a Myeloma Diagnosis? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

A myeloma diagnosis can be overwhelming, so where do you start? Donna Catamero, a nurse practitioner specializing in myeloma, shares key advice for patients and encourages self-advocacy to access the best care.

Donna Catamero is Associate Director of Myeloma Translational Research at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

See More From Engage Myeloma


Related Programs:

Who Is on Your Myeloma Healthcare Team?

What Are the Goals of Myeloma Treatment?

How Can Myeloma Patients Take an Active Role in Their Treatment and Care

How Can Myeloma Patients Take an Active Role in Their Treatment and Care?


Transcript:

Katherine:

Donna, would you please introduce yourself for us?

Donna:

I’m Donna Catamero. I’m a nurse practitioner at the Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, where I focus on clinical research and treatment of myeloma patients.

Katherine:

So, as a nurse practitioner specializing in myeloma, what’s your role in the healthcare team?

Donna:

So, I have several roles. So, the first role is caring for multiple myeloma patients, in particular, treating patients on clinical trials, managing their side effects, managing their treatment. My other role is a nurse educator. So, I help train our nursing staff and our research staff on myeloma, new therapies, “Myeloma 101”. So, I really help train and on-board our new staffing.

Katherine:

Excellent. When first diagnosed with myeloma, what three key pieces of advice do you have for patients and caregivers?

Donna:

So, number one is be your best advocate. So, learn everything you can learn about your disease. Learn about the treatments, the side effects, the treatment schedules. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and it’s okay to ask a question multiple times because we might not commit it to memory. So, learn as much as you can; learn how the drugs work. That’s why I’m saying knowledge is power and really, knowledge will lead to you being your best advocate.

And number two, it’s okay to have a second set of ears with you. So, sometimes the situation might be overwhelming and we might not hear or understand what’s being told to us. So, it’s important to have someone, a loved one, a caregiver, with us, so that they can also hear what the healthcare team is telling them. And I know in the day and age of COVID, there may be restrictions for visitors in the healthcare setting, but we can do recordings. We can have loved ones on the phone, so that they can hear what’s being told. And number three, is do not be a martyr. There’s no need for anyone to suffer.

If you’re in pain, let your team know. We can provide a lot of supportive care and get you through the most difficult times of your diagnosis.

Katherine:

Why is it important that patients engage in their care and treatment decisions?

Donna:

We have many options we can offer patients. Back in the day when I first started in my nursing career, we had only a handful of treatment options for patient. Now, we have an entire toolbox of treatments we can offer patients. So, it’s important to understand the treatments, the side effects, the schedule, and see if that aligns with your treatment goals so that this way you can make a very informed decision. 

Finding Your Support As a Newly Diagnosed Patient

From PEN-Powered Activity Guide VIII: Supporting Your Support System

Finding Your Support As a Newly Diagnosed Patient from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

View PEN-Powered Activity Guide VIII


Transcript:

Lisa Hatfield

It’s hard to know how much to share, when to share, who to share with, when you have kids, when you have colleagues, when your friends and neighbors see that you’re maybe not doing so well, or know that you’re in the hospital, they want to know, but it really has to be a decision that is best for you and taking care of yourself during that time and your family at that time. So, one of the things that kind of that flows into another question is when friends and family hear that, people jump in and they want to try to help you get messages, phone calls, text. How can I help? What can I do? How are you feeling? For me anyway, I loved that kind of support, but it does get overwhelming, and I know for anyone who has gone maybe to have stem cells collected or staging, when you’re gone for several weeks at a time, it’s really difficult to keep up on those messages and everyone’s intentions are so good. And they really do want to help. So, we had actually set up a Caring Bridge page where I could communicate on my own time or my husband could communicate the information, so really, like you said, doing things on your own time and just disclosing as much information as you want to.

There was a patient who had asked me how to deal with a family member who as they were talking about their myeloma, as he was explaining it to her family, that person got very choked up, and so she said, I felt like I was trying to take care of them as I was dealing with my own diagnosis, so I didn’t really know exactly what to say other than just be sure to take care of yourself at that time, whatever I pray for you is going to be the best… Whatever is best for you is going to be the right thing for you, but the next question I had is when people do start asking, how can I help… Can I drive your appointment? Can I bring meals to you… Maybe you want them to help out, which is a pretty easy one, but what if you don’t want them to help out? Again, these are questions your doctors might not be able to answer, but they happen a lot with myeloma or cancer patients, how do you handle that when people are asking, either you don’t have the time to respond, or maybe you don’t want the help, have either of you have any of you had that experience with your friends and family network.

Sheri Baker:

Yeah, I had a lot of people jump in and offer meals or whatnot, in the beginning, I accepted. Especially in the beginning when I was starting to…Well, when I was in the hospital too, I was doing my treatment, I was learning how to do dialysis, so the first two to three months were kind of hectic, and I had a friend who offered. She’s like, every Wednesday, I’m going to bring you a meal.

And I accepted that up until about like Thanksgiving. And I called her and I said, I’m back on my feet. But I reserve the right next year when I have to have my stem cell transplant and be in the hospital again to ask you to help out again. And she says, definitely. And same thing with other friends, I was on a renal diet, so they want to know what can we make for you, so you just tell them, but there does come a point in time where you say, I’m doing good now, but down the road, can I call you and ask you to help out again with meals, and then after my stem cell transplant, before I came home from the hospital, a group of friends were like, We want to come to clean your house, and I said, Great.

So, they did come and clean my house, and that was, I have to say that’s uncomfortable because now they’re like all over your house, and you don’t know what kind of state your house is going to be in ’cause you’ve been in the hospital for almost three weeks, so you’re a little embarrassed about the dust bunnies and how bad the bathroom might look, but it was welcome help, even though you might be a little embarrassed about how dirty your house really is, but I think that it was.

For me, it was easier to say, I don’t need to help right now, but next year or in a couple of months, if I need some help, can I call you that and ask for help, so that’s maybe one way to… If you don’t want the help right now to still not totally shut them down, but say, I’d like to have some help in the future.

View PEN-Powered Activity Guide VIII

A Guide to Caring for Each Other: An MPN Patient and Care Partner

A Guide to Caring for Each Other: An MPN Patient and Care Partner from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

MPN Network Managers Jeff and Summer dive into how they care for one another. Although, Jeff is the sole care partner for Summer who is living with myelofibrosis admits to still having to care for him as well. Hear how our MPN Network Managers prioritize care for one another.

“Listen to each other really strongly and help give each other what you need.” — Jeff

Will Telemedicine Mitigate Financial Toxicity for Prostate Cancer Patients?

Will Telemedicine Mitigate Financial Toxicity for Prostate Cancer Patients? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo

Prostate cancer patients often have financial costs associated with their care. Expert Dr. Leanne Burnham details ways that telemedicine reduces financial toxicity for prostate cancer care — and shares some of her own experience as a cancer patient when she was a doctoral student.

See More From the Prostate Cancer TelemEDucation Empowerment Resource Center

Related Resources:

 

What Are the Benefits of Telemedicine for Prostate Cancer Patients?

What Are the Limitations of Telemedicine for Prostate Cancer Patients?

Dr. Leanne Burnham’s Top Tips for Your Prostate Cancer Telemedicine Visit

 

Transcript:

Dr. Leanne Burnham

So speaking about financial toxicity, let’s just talk about it when it comes to medical treatment in general. Financial toxicity comes in many forms, and I can speak to this a little bit on a personal level, I myself was a cancer patient when I was a doctoral student, and I had to take nine months off of school and do chemo and surgeries, and the whole nine yards and the strain that puts financially on a family depends on what kind of safety guard you have in place ahead of time. When you’re not expecting to get cancer when you’re a young person, it can throw a monkey wrench for sure. And so in my own personal situation, my husband owns a barbershop, and he doesn’t have sick days, right, so if he doesn’t go to work, leave and he doesn’t come home with money. So that time that I was sick, that was stressful on us, because he didn’t necessarily want to call off, but he wanted to call off so that he could be with me, and he’s very concerned after I’m having my treatment, but at the same time, he needs to go to work. And so the stress that that creates for the patient, for the caregiver, that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the healing process, because what we know is that stress kills literally, quite literally, and I’ve published on that topic before. As it pertains to prostate cancer, we know that chronic stress, cumulative stress spread out over time dysregulates your hormone function and leads to all kinds of disease, metabolic diseases, cancer down the road.

So financial toxicity is a real thing, and there are ways that telemedicine can help to mitigate some of that financial toxicity. So, for example, when you don’t have to call off work, let’s say to make your televisit, then that’s a really great thing. When you don’t have to try to find child care so that you can go to your appointments because now at the hospital setting or the doctors’ offices, you can’t bring your kids with you like you used to be able to just…okay, come sit in the waiting room, or come in the room. It’s not like that you can’t even enter the building most of the time, and so a lot of people have to try to find child care if they were going to go to the doctor in-person. But the benefit of telemedicine is you don’t have to do that, so that’s a saved cost. I know myself; I’ve taken televisit appointments during my lunch break while I’m in lab, and that just works out a lot better, it’s not a day that I have to call off work in order to make that happen. The other way that telemedicine can help reduce cost is there can be reduced visits to, let’s say, urgent care or the emergency room.

I can think of a few situations during this quarantine era with my kids even where certain symptoms come up and I think, “Oh, I really need to take him to urgent care,” but I schedule a video appointment with their doctor, the doctor goes over a symptom checklist and says, “You know what, you don’t need to actually bring them in for an appointment, just bring them in and have them do this lab work real quick and just be in and out, and then we’ll let you know if there needs to be a follow-up.” And then most of the time, there doesn’t need to be a follow-up, or there’s just a prescription that’s needed, and you avoid the extra cost of what going to urgent care would have been, going to the emergency room would have been. And you’re reducing your exposure to COVID, which is not a financial toxicity question, but that’s a benefit that telemedicine has as well.

Advocacy Through Various Mediums with an MPN Patient and Caregiver

Advocacy Through Various Mediums with an MPN Patient and Caregiver from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What is patient advocacy and how can you advocate? MPN Network Managers Jeff and Summer discuss the various ways in which they advocate. In addition to volunteering with PEN, Jeff actively participates in a support group. Summer who is living with MPN has decided to advocate through her humor. Make sure to watch to see a snippet of her stand-up routine! 

“Our challenge to you is, as a patient find a way to give your knowledge of how you’re handling your disease to others and you too can become a strong patient advocate.” 

Want to connect with Jeff and Summer? Email them at question@powerfulpatient.org or text EMPOWER to (833)213-6657.

MPN Patient and Caregiver Explain How Colors Impact Their Lives

MPN Patient and Caregiver Explain How Colors Impact Their Lives from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Are you conscious of the colors in your home? MPN Network Manager Summer and her care partner Jeff have their respective homes filled with colors that bring them joy. They prioritize mindfulness and positivity as part of Summer’s healthcare journey.

Jeff challenges you to surround yourself with colors that put your mind and body at ease.

Want to connect with Jeff and Summer? Email them at question@powerfulpatients.org

Advocating for Key AML Testing: Advice From an Expert

Advocating for Key AML Testing: Advice From an Expert from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Dr. Hetty Carraway, an AML specialist at Cleveland Clinic, shares advice on advocating for yourself when diagnosed with AML, underscoring the importance of asking questions, and including your caregiver as part of the conversation.

Dr. Hetty Carraway is Director of the Leukemia Program at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Carraway cares for patients with acute leukemia and bone marrow failure states. Learn more about Dr. Carraway, here.

See More From INSIST! AML

Related Resources:


 Treatment Approaches in AML: Key Testing for Personalized Care

 New AML Therapies vs. Traditional Chemotherapy: What’s the Difference?

 Understanding Risk in AML: How Molecular Testing Affects Treatment Options

Transcript:

Katherine:

What advice do you have for patients when it comes to asking for appropriate testing and speaking up in their own care?

Dr. Carraway:            

This is so important. I think patients are leery to stir the pot or be difficult. I think coming from a place of inquiry, teach me about this, that, or the other thing, help me understand this, that, or the other thing – I would like you to show me why this decision or talk with me about why this decision versus another decision might be better for me compared to somebody else.

I can’t underscore the importance of advocating for yourself and asking questions about why am I getting this drug? What are the side effects to this drug? What is my prognosis? What is different about my case versus somebody else’s situation? How do I best prepare myself in getting ready for the therapy that I’m about to go through?

Those are all important questions that patients should ask. They should certainly have people, if possible in their family be advocates for them. I welcome that, and I think that that’s a really important part of going through this type of therapy for any patient. Your physician should welcome having your involvement in that. Don’t be shy about that. It’s your health, and any investment in that the most important people in that is inclusive of you and your caregivers. They should be a welcome part of the team.

The Caregiver Impact: A Vital Part of Healthcare

Carly FlumerCarly Flumer is a young woman who was diagnosed with stage I papillary thyroid cancer at the age of 27. She recently received her Master’s degree from Boston University […]

Braving the Caregiver Storm

As I sit here looking out the window at the snow that is beginning to fall, I am transported back to January 2011 when I was 28 and my 35 year old husband was diagnosed with leukemia. I was thrown into a snow storm I was definitely not prepared for nor did I think I’d be in. I had little visibility in front of me as the snow fell and flew all around me. I knew cancer was something that had been around for a very long time, and that the knowledge was out there…but as a young woman, I was standing in my own little snow globe without boots, a scarf, or mittens. I had my marriage that I wrapped around me like a warm coat, and held onto that while I attempted to find resources to guide me thorough this new life of mine.

My days of working full-time, then coming home to relax had been exchanged for quick trips to let the pets out after work, then jetting over to the hospital to spend a few hours with my husband before driving back home to spend a few minutes with my pets before going to bed and starting the cycle all over again. I was exhausted and had to figure out how to get warm, protect myself from the elements and survive!  However hard and unknown it all was, I found comfort in knowing that although I was the only young person I knew to go through what I was, millions of people had done it before and I could too. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but knew I would somehow.

I began to gather resources online by spending hours upon hours late at night on the internet. I looked up financial resources to help with gas cards, how to navigate insurance, disability, and requested all of the brochures possible from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the American Cancer Society. As I gained more knowledge, I felt myself slip into a warm pair of boots, feeling like I had more secure grounding. I was better informed and felt more armed to walk down the road of the cancer journey, despite still not being able to see through the masses of swirling snowflakes and at times, sleet.

I quickly realized that one of the most major parts of this journey was to take care of myself. At first it felt somewhat selfish, as my husband was the patient…however I had to figure out what worked best to keep my batteries charged and running, even when the snowy road threw my tires into a ditch. I started creating blog posts to inform and update our supporters on CaringBridge and Facebook, which allowed me to feel safe, supported and heard, while still having boundaries to not be overloaded via text, phone and email from all of those that wanted to know how things were going. This social support provided the needed warmth on my hands, giving me mittens to keep from getting frostbite from the dangerously low temperatures here in Minnesota.

I learned that taking time away for myself whether it be a cup of tea with a friend, taking a nap, a walk or binging a favorite TV show, was what I needed to do to be able to recharge my batteries to be in the right mental and physical space to be there for my loved one. Caregiver burnout is very real, and I often burned the candle at both ends, learning the hard way why self-care needed to be more of a priority in my life.  I don’t think that our supporters and loved ones can fully grasp or understand why it is so important to go to dinner with friends or to a movie or concert (outside of Covid-19 times of course), when your loved one is in the hospital or stuck at home.  What those that aren’t going through what you are in this crazy world of cancer don’t know is how hard it is to balance it all. Cancer is the belligerent relative at the holiday gathering that no one really knows how to deal with or control. They are there for better or worse, and it’s up to you to know how to balance and work with what you’ve been given.  When you take the time to understand and embrace what is….you can feel more at peace in taking the cancer process day by day, if not hour by hour.  You have to let the little things go, your house may not always be sparkly clean and everything may not get done- but the cancer patient has everything they need and you are a more balanced person to support them. Once I figured out how to balance things better, a scarf was wrapped around my neck, and I was better prepared for the snowstorm.

Cancer is definitely not something that is asked for, however with adequate resources, knowledge, social support and the practice of self-care, it is all doable.  I was able to take my experience as a cancer wife, then widow and beyond to create a book to share with the world on how I navigated the cancer world one day at a time, and live today with such thankfulness for the journey that brought me here today. I still absolutely love snow, and am excited for the snowstorm that is supposed to hit this afternoon with 4-7 inches, as I now know the ways to make sure I am storm ready to walk through the journeys in front of me, as you too, walk through your own snowstorms as well.