It is well known that a healthy diet and physical activity are good for cancer survival. But supporting the physical and nutritional health of cancer caregivers is just as important and often overlooked. There is significant evidence showing the benefits of both physical activity and a healthy diet for cancer patients And the those who care for them. A recently published study, led by researchers from Drexel University’s School of Nursing and Health Professions, explored physical activity, nutrition beliefs, behaviors and challenges of cancer patients and their caregivers, to inform future development of health interventions for both groups.
Posted in Oncology rehabilitationThe study revealed similarities in the beliefs of cancer patients and their caregivers about the importance of physical activity, as well as the barriers they face in participating in physical activity.
Study participants answered surveys and interviews about the importance of physical activity for stress management, but also the tendency of caregivers to focus on the patient’s activity needs rather than their own. Pairs of patients and caregivers reported similar barriers to physical activity including fatigue and time limitations. The research team noted that the usefulness of exercise for managing fatigue and mental health continues to be an important educational interest and need among patients and caregivers.
said Brandy Joe Meliron, PhD, associate professor in the college’s Department of Nutritional Sciences and lead author of the study.
While patients and caregivers found agreement in physical activity, the nutritional priorities of patients and caregivers were contradictory in many cases due to different priorities related to nutrition. Caregivers were significantly more likely to pursue weight loss, while patients reported trying to maintain or gain weight. However, when patients’ tastes and appetites are reduced by treatment, the patient And the The caregiver often ate comforting, delicious food. The research team noted that interventions for both patient and caregiver should also provide strategies for maintaining personal nutrition goals when faced with conflicting priorities between patients and caregivers.
“Future research is needed to develop dual (patient-caregiver) interventions that harness the influential role each member of the couple plays, while at the same time responding to their unique needs,” said Milleron.
Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, co-author and professor in the college’s Department of Food and Hospitality Management, added that they found that the needs, priorities, and tastes of patients and caregivers were differentiated but that there were common denominators in high levels of stress, fatigue, and a tendency to make appropriate, but not always nutritious, choices. .
“Our findings underscore the importance of nutrition in cooking that can provide convenient and delicious solutions to individual needs,” Deutsch said. “In particular, caregivers want to learn cooking techniques, strategies, and recipes that are quick and easy.”
Milleron noted that nutritional interventions should focus on addressing barriers to healthy eating such as fatigue and lack of time, and managing the complex dynamics of caring for someone with cancer, as well as clarifying and implementing the evidence supporting nutritional recommendations for healthy cancer prevention and survival.
For the combination study, 102 participants (50 cancer patients who were undergoing cancer treatment and 52 caregivers) completed surveys and in-depth interviews. The surveys collected information about participants’ demographic and personality, characteristics of cancer and caregiving, pre- and post-diagnosis activity, and dietary behaviors, as well as factors influencing those behaviors. In addition, participants were asked about their preferences for physical activity and dietary interventions. The interviews explored participants’ physical activity, beliefs, behaviors, nutritional challenges, and changes since diagnosis. Participants were recruited through a partnership with the Hope Lodge of the American Cancer Society in Pennsylvania.
This project was funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Health Research Formula Fund.
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