Practice Matters

Oncology Couples’ Retreats: A Focus on Relationships Between Patients and Their Caregivers

Amy Hacker-Prietz, PA-C, Eden Stotsky-Himelfarb, BSN, RN, Beth Kozak Onners, RN, MS, CCRN, OCN®, and Janet Street

Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

Authors’ disclosures of conflicts of interest are found at the end of this article.

Amy Hacker-Prietz, PA-C, 401 North Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21231. E-mail: ahacker1@jhmi.edu


J Adv Pract Oncol 2019;10(7):702–709 | https://doi.org/10.6004/jadpro.2019.10.7.6 | © 2019 Harborside™


  

ABSTRACT

A cancer diagnosis not only affects multiple aspects of a patient’s life, but can also have a significant impact on the caregiver, who is often the spouse as well. Beginning in 2012, the Johns Hopkins Gastrointestinal Oncology group has organized a couples’ retreat program to help address the concerns of oncology patients as well as their caregivers in a safe and closed environment. These retreats are disease-site specific and include 10 to 12 couples with metastatic or locally advanced pancreatic or colorectal cancer. The program includes a multidisciplinary approach over 3 days and includes meals, activities, and lodging. Couples are encouraged to engage with each other as well as other couples enduring a similar journey in an effort to help them relate and express concerns and questions they may have. Sessions include topics by medical professions such as treatments and symptom management as well as sessions by additional professionals to address other practical needs related to the diagnosis, such as finances and advance directives. These retreats have shown that both patients and caregivers appreciate the opportunity to discuss their feelings with others and subsequently feel less uncertainty about their future. They have also been beneficial to the health-care professionals participating to gain knowledge on which activities as a whole are important to these populations. Data are extremely limited for programs such as these, but we are hopeful they will continue to help support these populations of oncology patients and their caregivers through a very difficult portion of their lives.




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