Online Group Helps Cancer Caregivers Create Connections From Home

Smiling Women Holding Hands

Caregivers are often the unsung heroes in the cancer journeys of their family members and friends.

“They devote so much of themselves to taking care of their loved ones, sometimes, they don’t take the time to take care of themselves.” says caregiver support group facilitator Michelle Wunsch, MSN, RN, ACM, PCRM, of JamesCare for Life (JCFL), an OSUCCC – James department that provides survivorship support to patients and caregivers during and after cancer treatment.

To help meet some of the needs of caregivers, Wunsch created an Online Caregiver Support Group. Caregivers who sign up and join then “attend” monthly support-group meetings online.

“A lot of caregivers have so much going on that it’s difficult for them to take the time to attend a support group and, in some cases, they feel guilty or don’t feel comfortable leaving their loved ones alone for two or three hours,” Wunsch says. “With the online support group, they can log in from home, and if their loved one needs some type of support, they’re right there to help them. This gives them some peace of mind.”

Wunsch is the facilitator of the Online Caregiver Support Group.

“JamesCare for Life and (the OSUCCC – James) care so much about our caregivers,” she says. “We never want them to feel alone—we want them to know we’re there for them and support them and will help them in any way we can.”

November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize the important roles caregivers play in the lives of cancer patients, and to help them find the resources, support and help they need. JCFL offers a wide range of programs, classes and activities for patients and caregivers, all of which are free, including several support groups that meet on a monthly basis.

Caregivers can feel isolated and depressed, even when they are supported by other family members and friends. Often, they’re reluctant to ask for help.

“Their whole lives have been turned upside down,” Wunsch says. “This is not what they thought their lives would be like at this point.”

The Online Caregiver Support Group provides information, emotional support and opportunities to connect with people facing similar challenges.

“I’m so amazed and humbled by how they support one another,” Wunsch says of the members of the new support group. “It’s beautiful to see this community taking care of one another.”

The topics discussed during the monthly group meetings cover a wide range of topics, including medical and personal issues. Wunsch is able to follow up by sending members educational information that answers questions that come up during the sessions and connects members with experts from the OSUCCC – James. She also lets everyone know about the wide range of JCFL events, and encourages them to attend.

Members of the group can also connect outside of the monthly sessions to build more personal relationships.

“It’s been so rewarding to open this door and witness and work with people who have gone through this and watch them support each other,” Wunsch says.

Click here for more information on the Online Caregiver Support Group, including instructions on how to become a member, or call JCFL at 614-293-1745.