As more of the population ages, so too will the number of people who are caregivers, such as adult children caring for their aged parents.

New research indicates family caregivers need to be supported throughout the illness of their loved ones as they share much of the experience of the dying person.

It has already been established that individuals dying from cancer experience distress particularly at four key time points: at diagnosis, at home after initial treatment, at recurrence, and during the terminal stage, according to a press release from the British Medical Journal, where the research was published.

“The authors, led by Professor Scott Murray from the University of Edinburgh, are now suggesting that family caregivers may also experience typical patterns of wellbeing and distress that their relatives are going through,” the release noted. “Carers, like patients, often felt they were on an emotional rollercoaster, experiencing peaks and troughs at key times of stress and uncertainty in the cancer trajectory.”

The authors conclude that psychological and existential support should be targeted at caregivers at the four key stages of the terminal illness. “It may also be empowering for caregivers to know that it is common to feel stressed and in need of support at certain times,” they add.

Research conduced previously showed that massage therapy benefited hospice patients and their caregivers.

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