The Art of Cancer Caregiving: How Art Therapies Can Benefit Those Caring for Cancer Patients
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A cancer diagnosis is incredibly stressful for the person receiving the diagnosis. But those caring for the patient, both informally and formally, also experience stress, which can affect their own health and the patient’s outcome. A study, led by researchers from Drexel University’s Creative Art Therapies department in the College of Nursing and Health Professions, as well as researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, showed coloring and open-studio art therapy benefits stressed caregivers of cancer patients.
“Families of cancer patients experience emotional trauma around the diagnosis, stress of treatment, financial concern, among others,” said lead author of the study, Girija Kaimal, EdD, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. “While addressing their needs understandably comes second to the patient’s needs, the stressors families experience often go unaddressed.”
Kaimal also added oncology professionals, such as nurses, therapists and physicians, experience their own set of negative effects, like compassion fatigue and not taking time for self-care. This can lead to avoidance of empathetic care, mistakes in patient care, high turnover, health problems and burnout.
As important as their own health is, addressing the caregivers’ and oncology professionals’ psychosocial needs also helps to improve the patient’s treatment compliance and outcomes.
The mixed-methods study, supported through a cooperative agreement with the National Endowment for the Arts Research Labs program, was conducted in Penn’s department of Radiation Oncology. Researchers compared two arts-based approaches for caregivers – single sessions of coloring and open-studio art therapy.
A total of 34 caregivers (25 healthcare professionals and nine family caregivers) were randomly assigned to 45 minutes of an independent, open-studio art therapy or an active-control coloring session, with all sessions run by trained art therapists.
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