Twenty to thirty percent of the partners of cancer patients struggle with symptoms such as sleep problems, depression, fatigue, social isolation and fear. They often ignore these complaints, believing that their problems are nothing compared to that of their partner. But this is not conducive for either. The online ‘Support for one another’ course – specifically developed for partners of patients with cancer – can help. Nadine Köhle who performs research into the effectiveness of the course at the University of Twente IGS research institute is looking for participants who may follow the course free of charge.
“Partners of patients with cancer often ignore themselves completely”, says Köhle. “They want to do everything for their partner, but they do not consider themselves.” They themselves are also going through a very difficult period, however. Previous studies indicated that twenty to thirty percent of the partners suffer from psychological problems and that this percentage is significantly higher if the patient is terminally ill. Partners of cancer patients often face serious problems in several areas: emotional, social and physical. These include feelings of anxiety, depression, fatigue, relationship problems and loneliness.
‘Support for one another’ course
Because taking the step to ask for professional help is too great for many partners of cancer patients, the University of Twente, in collaboration with the VU University Medical Center, has developed the online ‘Support for one another’ course. The course, developed together with partners of cancer patients, offers information and support for partners and focuses on reducing stress and psychological and physical symptoms.
The course consists of six basic lessons, each focusing on one topic, such as recognizing and managing emotions. The lessons include information, tips and exercises to, for example, promote resilience, live more ‘in the present’ and dwell on things that really matter. In addition, there are opportunities to make contact with fellow-sufferers.
Nadine Köhle performs research into the effectiveness of the course. The initial results concerning the satisfaction with the course are positive. Over ninety percent of the participants indicate that they are (fairly or very) satisfied with the course, according to a first survey. One participant wrote, for example, that the lessons were a great help in difficult times. “Taking a little time for myself each week has done me a lot of good. It is a good idea to make a list of thoughts, feelings and emotions and to also dwell on these.”
For her research, Köhle is now looking for new participants for the course. Partners of cancer patients can register until the end of March and can follow the online course free of charge. The researchers hope that health insurers will eventually reimburse the course, so that it is available to all partners of cancer patients who need it. More information and registration is available via the website www.houvastvoorelkaar.nl.
Joost Bruysters, Advisor/editor External Communications, tel +316-10488228