CancerCare Joins WellPoint Foundation to Improve the Health of Caregivers

Help for Cancer Caregivers web tool provides personalized resources and support

NEW YORK and INDIANAPOLIS— Feb. 13, 2013 — Sixty-five million Americans provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year.

Caregivers spend an average of 20 hours per week caring for their loved one, and they need resources to help them cope with the stress and personal health challenges they are likely to encounter when caring for someone else.

Now, a new online tool is providing the information and resources caregivers for loved ones with cancer need to care for their own health so they can be there for those who need them most.

Called “Help for Cancer Caregivers,” the web tool walks users through a brief survey and then provides personalized information to help monitor, track and manage the personal health challenges they face as a result of their caregiver role.

For example, if individuals respond that they feel overloaded by their caregiver responsibilities, the web tool responds with information describing the symptoms and causes of overload, as well as information on how to cope and talk about overload with others.

Help for Cancer Caregivers was made possible through a $242,000 grant from the WellPoint Foundation to CancerCare®, a national nonprofit that helps more than 100,000 individuals and families cope with cancer each year. The information on Help for Cancer Caregivers was constructed through a collaboration between experts at the Caregiver Action Network, Michigan State University, Indiana University and WellPoint, Inc.

“As more and more patient care is being administered in the patient’s own home, caregivers are responsible for providing both emotional and practical support,” said CancerCare CEO Helen H. Miller, LCSW, ACSW. “Fewer than 15 percent of caregivers seek professional help in dealing with their own needs, whether they be social, financial, physical, emotional or spiritual. The Help for Cancer Caregivers web tool provides a wealth of information to help caregivers avoid burnout and stress."

Studies show that Americans caring for a sick, elderly or disabled family member, relative or friend suffer from poorer physical health than those who do not have additional caregiving responsibilities. In fact, the level of distress reported by many of those caring for someone with cancer can be equal to or greater than that of the cancer patient.

“This tool is designed to improve caregivers’ well-being and their ability to cope,” said Lance Chrisman, executive director of the WellPoint Foundation. “Many caregivers don’t realize that it’s normal to feel some anxiety when they are caring for a loved one, and there are things they can do to reduce that stress, and make themselves healthier.”

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index showed that caregivers in all age groups who were employed full time were substantially more likely to experience various common physical health issues – such as high blood pressure, knee and back pain, than their non-caregiving counterparts. Caregivers who provide five or more medical or nursing tasks were more likely to report feeling depressed or helpless than those who perform fewer tasks, according to “Home Alone,” a report from the AARP Public Policy Institute/United Hospital Fund.

Other studies have found:

• Caregivers show higher levels of depression;
• Caregivers suffer from high levels of stress and frustration;
• Stressful caregiving situations may lead to harmful behaviors;
• Caregivers have an increased risk of heart disease;
• Caregivers have lower levels of self-care; and
• Caregivers have increased sickness and death.

Evidence has also shown that education and intervention reduce caregiver strain, uncertainty and helplessness and that information helps normalize the caregiver experience and enhances a sense of control.

Help for Cancer Caregivers can be accessed free-of-charge at http://helpforcancercaregivers.org.

The online tool’s information can be accessed without registering; however users are encouraged to create an account so they receive information tailored to their personal situation. User information is kept confidential, and there are no costs associated with creating an account.

“Caregiving can be a thankless job,” said Chrisman. “By providing this tool we hope these selfless individuals can find the answers they’ve been looking for and that over time the online resources will help create a dialogue about the valuable role caregivers play in our families and communities.”

About CancerCare
Founded in 1944, CancerCare® provides free, professional support services to individuals, families, caregivers, and the bereaved to help them better cope with and manage the emotional and practical challenges arising from cancer. CancerCare services include counseling and support groups, educational publications and workshops, and financial assistance. All of our services are provided by professional oncology social workers and are offered completely free of charge. To speak with a CancerCare social worker, call 800 813 HOPE (4673). Or, visit www.cancercare.org.

About WellPoint Foundation
The WellPoint Foundation is the philanthropic arm of WellPoint, Inc. and through charitable contributions and programs, the Foundation promotes the inherent commitment of WellPoint, Inc. to enhance the health and well-being of individuals and families in communities that WellPoint, Inc. and its affiliated health plans serve. The Foundation focuses its funding on strategic initiatives that address and provide innovative solutions to health care challenges, as well as promoting the Healthy Generations Program, a multi-generational initiative that targets specific disease states and medical conditions. These disease states and medical conditions include: prenatal care in the first trimester, low birth weight babies, cardiac morbidity rates, long term activities that decrease obesity and increase physical activity, diabetes prevalence in adult populations, adult pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations and smoking cessation. The Foundation also coordinates the company’s annual associate giving campaign and provides a 50 percent match of associates' campaign pledges. To learn more about the WellPoint Foundation, please visit http://www.wellpointfoundation.org.

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