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How to offer support when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer

World Cancer Day is an international day marked on February 4 to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. Having cancer patients be a part of the process from the beginning will help them address their overall needs physically, emotionally and socially. Having a supportive caregiver to get through the diagnosis, treatments, etc. is monumental.

Attention caregivers: this article’s focus is to provide helpful tips when caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Q: What are some ways caregivers can be helpful?

A: When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, many people feel overwhelmed. Cancer does not just affect the person diagnosed - people involved in that person’s life, and especially those involved in their care, are also impacted. By taking certain steps, you’ll be better equipped to care for your loved one.

First, remember that communication is key. Keeping the lines of communication open will help all involved. Second, caregivers need to remember to take care of themselves. Without it their own well-being could become affected. Third, some find support groups can help cope with the diagnosis along with supporting the mental wellbeing of the patient and their caregivers. Support and understanding from family and friends often provides the biggest impact on one’s emotional wellbeing.

The nonprofit Cancer Support Community offers ten tips for caregivers:
1. Know your support system

Talking to others who are experiencing what you may be experiencing can help manage stress, cope with possible isolation and help you be a better caregiver.

2. Collect information

“Knowledge is power.” Research information about your loved one’s diagnosis and what treatments are available.

3. Understand how your life might change

Many cancer patients and their loved ones express feeling a loss of control after they have been diagnosed. Take time to accept the “new normal” and the changes that may come, one day at a time.

4. Take a break

Take time to relax and renew. Take a walk. This will help with your stress level and frame of mind.

5. Make time for yourself

Don’t forget you have a life, too. Reach out to friends for support.

6. Have a plan

This will give you peace of mind. Think of activities to do during treatments and plan something special to celebrate when treatments are over.

7. Accept help

Everyone needs help. If someone offers, say yes. This will help more than you think.

8. Take care of you

Don’t forget to stay current with your own medical appointments. Exercise, eat well and get plenty of rest.

9. Manage stress

Meditate, do yoga or whatever makes you feel at ease. Keeping your stress level down is important.

10. Know your limits

Everyone needs help, including you. Know what you can and cannot do by yourself.

A cancer diagnosis brings change, but patients and their caregivers can take better care of their physical, emotional, and social well-being by taking part in the process from day one. Find more information and support from Cancer Support Community or the American Cancer Society.

The Information & Caregiver Resource Center at LifePath is here to help find answers to your questions. To speak with a resource consultant, contact us.

The Dementia Caregivers Support Group at LifePath is for caregivers of people with memory disorders such as, but not limited to, Alzheimer's disease.

Dementia Caregiver Support Group photo WEBIf you’re caring for a loved one with a memory disorder, the Dementia Caregivers Support Group at LifePath is here to help.Facilitated by Molly Chambers, the in-person support group offers participants a place to ask questions, share experiences and resources, and get answers. From time to time, the group views films about dementia and caregiver concerns and hears from speakers, such as lawyers, people from hospice, and local writer and speaker Mo Grossberger with his “Lessons Learned.”

“[Molly and the group have] been a big help to me,” says Peter Vearling, who cares for his wife and attends the group sessions. “You just know you have people you can count on who understand what you’re going through.”

The support group meets the first and third Wednesday of each month from 5-7 p.m. in the conference room at LifePath, 101 Munson St., Suite 201, Greenfield, MA 01301. The building is accessible, and the group is free and open to the public.

Anyone who is caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia can benefit from a support group. “They definitely should join a support group,” says Peter, “and don’t stop after one. The more I went, the more I realized this is something I should keep doing.”

Contact us learn more about the Dementia Caregivers Support Groups and other services available through LifePath.

Questioning our priorities - the crisis in home care

Nationwide, there are approximately 3 million home care workers who provide the much-needed care to enable elders and persons with disabilities to remain in their homes. These vital services are typically delivered by highly empathic workers who offer support, companionship and assistance with tasks such as bathing, dressing, housework and shopping. As the aging population continues to grow, the ever-increasing demand for direct service workers is creating a looming worker shortage, leaving many positions unfilled.

Intrinsic to the direct service worker shortage are low wages, limited opportunities for advancement, lack of respect, physically taxing work, inconsistent hours and meager or non-existent benefits packages. Stagnant wages have left 20% of all home care workers living below the poverty level.

Approximately one quarter of these direct service workers are immigrants. Changes in immigration policy and restrictions under consideration by the White House are further fueling the critical shortage of home care staff. The impact to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients who may be forced to leave the United States, travel bans, deportations and termination of temporary protected status of workers from select countries have negatively impacted an already strained industry.

Feb 2019 SG Questioning our Priorities The Crisis in Home Care photoMany of the people who are home care workers are immigrants, and many more people are needed to address the worker shortage in this vital and growing industry.

The loss of valuable home care workers is occurring as:

  • Legal residents of the United States are moving back to their country of origin when relatives are deported
  • Undocumented immigrants, who are a significant part of the “gray market” where clients pay privately and out-of-pocket through an unregulated network of direct service workers are exiting the workforce.
  • Home health training programs for Latino immigrants are seeing reductions in enrollments.
  • Whole communities are feeling targeted with workers oftentimes wanting to limit their activities outside of the home.
  • These dynamics are dissuading program graduates from entering the workforce due to immigration-related anxieties.

“We have a caregiver shortage, and implementing policies like immigration reform is just going to exacerbate that shortage even more,” Carelinx CEO Sherwin Sheik said at a Home Health Care News summit. “We have to recognize who is taking care of our seniors and embrace them, rather than close the door.”

As the number of elders increases relative to the young, so will the growing shortage of workers to provide the care. Our social obligation needs to shift to ensure the security of elders and persons with disabilities through the availability and provision of quality care. Older immigrants should have the option to receive assistance from those who speak their native language. Welcoming immigrants helps grow the home care workforce and enhances the industry with respectful caring attitudes and cultural competencies possessed by workers of diverse ethnic origins.

Only through the development of this workforce and elevation of the status of home care workers will we be able to properly attend to the needs of this population that is expected to soar in the years ahead.

MOW Walkathon banner 2019

Jan 2019 Walkathon Article Call for Teams photoWalkathon Team Captain Sue Corey displays an example of one of the many special fundraising initiatives planned by the South County Senior Center team to help raise funds for Meals on Wheels at LifePath.With LifePath’s Meals on Wheels Walkathon three months away on April 27, I sat down with Sue Corey, South County Senior Center program director and Walkathon team captain to learn about the winning combination of efforts they put forward to be the winningest senior center fundraising team for seven years running.

When Sue started at the South County Senior Center in South Deerfield, only a few elders attended the congregate meal. But Sue helped create a welcoming and engaging environment in which elders could help out, socialize, participate in other activities, and enjoy a meal. Now, their senior center has a bustling meal program and has begun hosting LifePath’s monthly Rainbow Elders meal.

Sue also understood better than ever the need for home-delivered meals. For seven years she has led the effort in the senior center team’s support of Meals on Wheels.

The team’s fundraising efforts have included these components:

  • February cake pop sale
  • March/April calendar raffle
  • Bake sales throughout the year
  • “Tabling” at a local market
  • Traditional pledging and gifts during Walkathon season

Sue appreciates her team’s efforts, that community members contribute to these fundraising endeavors, and that she gets support from good neighbors, the Polish Club, and the Hotel Warren in South Deerfield.

When asked why she participates in year-round Meals on Wheels fundraising, Sue replies, “For everything they’ve done over the years, it’s one way to show elders respect.” She continues, “Every senior is deserving. That’s why I do this.”

Join Sue Corey in choosing your own way to support the Meals on Wheels program and participate in the April Walkathon.

Traditional pledge forms for team members or individuals will be available online by the end of January, or you may request them.

Northfield Mount Hermon 2019 Benefit Concert for Meals on Wheels

One “already-planned” way you can support Meals on Wheels locally is to attend the Northfield Mount Hermon benefit concert on Sunday, February 24 at 3 p.m. Donations for LifePath’s Meals on Wheels program will be accepted at the door. Tell your friends!

As always, feel free to contact me for more information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 413-773-555 x2225, or 978-544-2259 x2225.

natalie blais campaign photo 2018Representative Natalie BlaisThank you to everyone who voted on November 6, 2018, in the mid-term election. In doing so, you made history. According to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s unofficial results, more voters cast ballots in a midterm election this year than ever before in Massachusetts history. On that day, I visited all 19 communities of the First Franklin District during a 14-hour, 240-mile road trip and ultimately won the election. It was my honor to be sworn in as the State Representative for the First Franklin District on January 2.

On Swearing-in Day for the 191st General Court, I joined 24 other newly elected legislators and 135 incumbent legislators from around the Commonwealth to take the Oath of Office. The class of 2019 is the largest class since Rep. Paul Mark’s first election in 2011.

My children were by my side as I walked onto the floor of the chamber. There, I learned that my desk would be at seat number 53. This was the same seat held by the Honorable Steve Kulik, the Honorable Jay Healy and his father before him. Being the first woman to be elected to this position overwhelmed me. I am so thankful for the leadership and guidance of my predecessors and will look to them for guidance and advice as I take on this new role.

A number of procedural measures followed before we took the Oath of Office - a solemn vow that moved me deeply when thinking of all of those who have gone before me. It was particularly meaningful to have my children by my side during this historic event.

I look forward to working with my colleagues to address matters of importance to the First Franklin District including infrastructure (broadband, roadways and bridges), Chapter 70 reform, access to healthcare and turning back climate change.

There is much to be done in the weeks ahead. In addition to meeting with constituents in the District, [as of this writing] I am working to finalize a list of bills to submit by 4:59 p.m. on January 18.

My desk is currently located in “the bullpen," the windowless hearing rooms in the basement of the State House where all newly elected legislators are assigned space. I will be here until room assignments are made a month or so from now. I welcome anyone to come and visit! You can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and my phone number is 617-722-2425.

Thank you to the residents of the First Franklin District who cast their vote for me. Just as I did on Election Day, I will show up for all 19 communities of this district as your State Representative. I look forward to working alongside you to bring the voices of western Massachusetts to the halls of the Massachusetts State House.