A woman embraces an elderly woman. Both are smiling but juggling work and caregiving is hard..

Giving jibling work and care is stressful, and research is being done to find ways to treat cancer loved ones while they are on the job. Photo – Getty Images.

Like many of us, Ashley Thomas thought life was ready to go up when the last page of the 2020 calendar turned and 2021 was lit.

It was believed that the new year provided an opportunity for the country to continue from the previous social crisis, as well as the unexpected. In January 2021 there were signs of hope, especially for the vaccine to stop the spread of COVID-19.

With a twinkle in his eye, that hope was shattered.


Ashley’s husband, Craig, was driving alone on a North Colorado highway in mid-January when he suddenly lost control of his car and hit a 55-mile patrol. He was not seriously injured, but he could not explain the “very strange” accident, Ashley recalls.

Two weeks later, Craig said he had a severe headache and asked for a doctor’s appointment. After a series of tests, Craig’s doctor surprised Ashley with a question – was one of his eyes smaller than the other? She did not know.

The doctor ordered a CT scan, which led to a shocking MRI scan – Craig had five tumors on his right side of his brain. A biopsy at the University of Colorado Hospital at the University of Anchool has caused further damage. Craig invaded and destroyed brain tissue, and he had a cancerous tumor called globilatoma.

A subsequent MRI showed more tumors. About a month after the car accident, Craig began chemotherapy and radiation. The year that began with the ray of hope was dark.

As part of a new trial at the University of Colorado, clinical social worker Aura Fireman will provide a structured intervention to help caregivers cope with multiple sources of stress in their lives.  Photo courtesy of Aura Fireman.
As part of a new trial at the University of Colorado, clinical social worker Aura Fireman will provide a structured intervention to help caregivers cope with multiple sources of stress in their lives. Photo courtesy of Aura Fireman.

“We thought 2021 was a great year, and in 28 days the world was shaken,” Ashleg said. We can never imagine.

On August 11, Glioblastoma Craig died. He left Ashley and their 15-year-old daughter. Six months later, Ashley lost her life to support and care for Craig.

“It was the first horrible thing I had ever experienced,” she said.

Unknown stress in nursing care

A.D. By 2021, Ashley seems to have been able to withstand intense stress. However, the idea that people who care for their loved ones can benefit from the pressures of daily life in conjunction with their own needs is still relatively new. An experiment at the University of Colorado is currently investigating whether interventional intervention has helped caregivers like Ashleg to better manage stress. Researchers are recruiting solid tumors and their caregivers from cancer centers in the UCHealth system.

The study focuses on hired caregivers. Dr. Kathy Bradley, the trial’s chief investigator, said that these people are carrying out the burden of fulfilling their responsibilities while caring for household chores. Bradley is a research assistant dean at the Colorado Public Health School and the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

“I don’t think stress and its consequences are enough – especially for the working age population,” says Bradley, who focuses on the impact of cancer on individuals and families.

Thanks to advances in medicine and medical administration, Bradley estimates that there are now about 17 million cancers in the United States, many of which depend on their caregivers. Many of these caregivers, on the other hand, have to work not only to support their loved ones financially but also to maintain health insurance.

“Unfortunately, caregivers have employment protections and sick leave is often unpaid,” said Bradley. “Employed caregivers seem to be particularly vulnerable in all aspects of life. We wanted to develop intervention to help them. ”

Methods for remote stress management

The study compared two “virtual anxiety management intervention” programs: one through weekly zoom or telephone interaction between the caregiver and the trained professional, and the other caregivers at any time and at their own pace – with a control group that does not accept any stress management program.

Researchers use a variety of tools to measure stress, including “stress symptoms” tests and analysis of saliva and hair samples to show the level of cortisol released by adrenal glands. It may be an indicator of higher levels of normal cortisol levels.

Both imaginary approaches cover a wide range of topics, such as strategies for managing and coping with stress; Balancing work and care needs; Obtain external support for employment and legal challenges; Coping with distrust, and more.

According to a previous study, it was discarded

This antidepressant treatment was tested in a study conducted by the department’s Behavioral Emology Laboratory, led by the late Dr. Mark Laudenslager, a former professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado Medical School. Named the “Technology, Psychological, Strengthening and Relaxation (PEPRR) technology, Laudslager and colleagues have reduced stress in stem cell transplant patients.

: Prosecutor Dr. Kathy Bradley says cancer care workers have many challenges and need additional resources.  Photo by University of Colorado.
For the hearing’s chief investigator, Dr. Kathy Bradley, cancer caregivers are facing many challenges and need additional resources. Photo by University of Colorado.

That work has led to the current study focusing on the needs of employee caregivers. A firefighter works with randomly assigned study participants for PEPRR intervention.

“There is a lot of stress on parents, sometimes they don’t get the attention they need,” says Farman. “They are focused on the needs of their spouse, wives, or partners because they are sick. Caregivers may feel that they should not pay attention to their own needs because they are healthy. But we know that stress can affect a caregiver’s health.

Many different challenges

Every caregiver experiences stress differently, adding Fireman, but there are common problems that add weight to their emotional and physical burdens. These include feelings of guilt, changes in marital or partner roles, anxiety, and insomnia. Difficult symptoms such as memory loss, headaches and skin rashes may follow. Combined effects can lead to depression and frustration.

“Caregivers feel that they are giving one foot in front of the other, walking, walking,” says Farman. They may not realize that their physical or emotional problems are really related to stress and that they are not taking the time to deal with it.

Fireman talks to the parents about how her one-on-one sessions started and how to start by taking a break. She continues on a special topic and discusses various coping strategies “for problems that can be directly fixed and those that are out of control.”

Strategies include techniques such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, biofedback, mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. Fireman said it helps caregivers come up with concrete plans that fit their unique needs for long-term care.

“A lot of work is helping them understand and understand how important it is for their colleagues to take care of themselves,” he said.

Coping with sudden loss

Ashley Thomas (name and Craig changed to remain anonymous) said her husband’s glioblastoma test was a “gut bite” and that her rapid decline only increased her pain and stress. Within a few months, he lost his ability to walk and talk, and he developed other serious health problems, including blood clots in his lungs and kidneys.

With the support of her supportive employer, Ashley kept her job and medical insurance. In less time, she planned two trips with Craig and his daughter, first to Florida and then to Vermont for six weeks on the shores of Lake Champagne. Three weeks after their return from Vermont, Craig died.

The stress was overwhelming, Ashlig said. “What does the day bring to the next day? I lost my mate, who could no longer talk to me. There were trips to the emergency room. As cancer developed into a “happy life,” their daughter experienced a “violent awakening.” Ashley is worried about her job, just because she wants to do it.

Tools for managing stress

Bradley’s trial at the UCHealth Patient Gateway through Ashley, through my Health Link, provided some relief. After making a voluntary decision, Ashley was taken to the PEPRR intervention arm with Fireman and began weekly magnification meetings in May.

Many stress-relieving techniques are helpful, including Ashleg’s body-building exercises, which she uses to slowly relax her body. She said that she was able to talk to herself “off the road”, especially during stressful times, by focusing on breathing and meditating.

Most of all, she appreciated her weekly relationship with the fire, and learned how to cope with her grief and know how to alleviate her anxiety by getting to know her better and getting better responses.

“I never stopped doing it [the exercises] By myself, ”said Ashlig. “Now I tighten my muscles. My weekly meeting with Aura made me responsible for doing these things that I did not have the motivation to do.

Understand the long way ahead

The sessions are over, but Ashlig says she will continue to work on short-term and long-term goals to cope with the loss of Craig. She keeps a diary to be thankful for the small but lasting things in life, to remember everyday beauty, to do real things for herself, and to remember self-esteem.

Of course, one-on-one or self-directed interventions should be considered if they help to reduce the negative impact of anxiety on educators. The trial is ongoing and will take some time to analyze the outcome. But Bradley is optimistic.

“Our caregivers, if they take care of themselves, will have less health care and better care for the patient – and he or she may have less health care,” he said. I want these interventions to be presented as part of the standard of care.

Fireman, for her part, believes caregivers are an important asset in improving patient care.

“The endurance of the people is remarkable,” she said. Caregivers, of course, contribute to knowledge that can help future caregivers and help others who may have gone through the past.

Contact Heather Rouse for more information on the study Carewell@cuanschutz.edu; 303-724-4237.