From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders
November 21, 2022
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, nearly three million Americans are caring for someone with cancer. The American Cancer Society defines a caregiver as the individual who most often helps a person with cancer and is not paid to do so. A caregiver wears many hats at any given hour—-home health aide, companion, chef, chauffeur, scheduler, financial planner, maid—and the role does not come with any training or instruction manual. While caregivers find satisfaction in caring for someone they love, they can also feel overwhelmed, stressed, emotional, and tired at times. It’s important for them to take time to care for themselves to be the best for their loved ones.
Jesline Gormas, currently under the care of OHC medical oncologist and hematologist Roma Srivastava, MD, was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common form of leukemia in adults, in 2007 only months after her spouse passed away. Jesline’s daughter, Jenny Gormas, would become her primary caregiver. In 2012, Jesline was also diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a condition in which the blood cells do not work properly. Jenny lives with Jesline, now 93, and has seen her through years of treatment with chemotherapy, blood transfusions, and injections with Procrit and Neulasta to increase her blood cell counts.
“My mom can get around on her own, but I have to follow her very closely,” said Jenny. “She’s weak and has poor balance as a result of her condition.” Jesline recently had a couple of falls and suffers from constant back pain as a result. In addition to managing Jesline’s regular schedule of medications, meals, and doctor appointments, Jenny is now arranging for her physical therapy.
“On a typical day, I let my mom sleep in as late as 11:30 or noon, but my new goal is to get her up and going to build up her strength,” said Jenny. “A physical therapy service will be coming to the house to help show us how to do mom’s exercises.”
When meeting Jesline and Jenny, one can’t help but notice the closeness between the two. Jenny notes that this closeness has always been there, adding, “It just comes natural.”
Jenny can recite Jesline’s medical history since her cancer diagnosis in detail. She has a tremendously calming nature about her, and it was not surprising to see Jesline turn to her and say, “You’re a good caregiver.” One can’t help but wonder if Jenny ever feels overwhelmed. “My faith and going to church keep me strong,” said Jenny. “I have quiet time in the morning before mom gets up and I pray.” Jenny also makes sure she attends her book club meetings and enjoys lunch and dinner out with friends. When she’s away, the neighbor is happy to stay with Jesline, and Jesline also has a medical alert system to wear.
What seems to be most rewarding for both Jesline and Jenny is spending time with family. While Jenny admits that it is challenging to watch her mother’s health decline, she notes that it is gratifying to “see her enjoying family functions, which she’s still able to attend.”
Jenny is slow to offer advice to other caregivers, noting, “Everyone’s situation is different.” Something both Jesline and Jenny appear to find comfort in is a baby monitor in Jesline’s bedroom that allows them to communicate. Jenny is also looking into respite care and feels that “mom might be more forthcoming with her struggles to an outside person, and they might also engage her in more activities.”
“It’s evident that Jenny puts her mother’s needs above her own, but she’s also doing the right thing by setting aside time for herself,” said Dr. Srivastava. “Caregivers need to focus on both their physical and psychological needs so that they remain strong to care for their loved ones.”
This National Family Caregivers Month, Dr. Srivastava and her OHC colleagues offer the following recommendations for caregivers:
- Recognize that you cannot do it all alone and reach out to family, friends, and sitter-companion services for support.
- Allow yourself time every day to do something you enjoy like drinking a cup of coffee, taking a walk, or journaling.
- Eat a healthy diet and get enough rest.
- Stay up to date on your own medical care.
- Make a list of tasks and determine priorities.
- If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, do not be afraid to join a support group or make an appointment with a trained mental health professional.
OHC connects patients, their loved ones, and caregivers with several cancer-focused community resources that offer assistance. Cancer Family Care provides therapeutic counseling, education, support, and hope to those touched by cancer. Cancer Support Community enhances the lives of those touched by cancer by offering free support and services to improve quality of life. For more patient and caregiver resources or to request a second opinion with one of OHC’s cancer experts, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit https://ohcare.com/patient-resources/community-support-resources/.
Top picture: Jenny Gormas (right) recently brought her mother, Jesline Gormas (left), to OHC’s Blue Ash location for treatment and a follow-up visit with OHC medical oncologist and hematologist Roma Srivastava, MD.Comments (2)