Background and Context:
Recognising that cancer affects not only survivors, but also carers, partners and family (‘carers’), we present the benefits and challenges of including carers in an innovative survivorship program called ENRICH (Exercise and Nutrition Routine Improving Cancer Health).
Involving carers in health behaviour interventions potentially increases social support, and positively influences patient adherence to lifestyle programs. Studies have shown over half of caregivers report negative health behaviours such as decreased PA and/or weight gain.
Our aim is to engage more carers to attend a program designed to improve cancer survivor’s health and wellbeing.
ENRICH is an education program, comprising physical activity (PA) and healthy eating topics delivered via face-to-face discussions and practical activities. Social Cognitive Theory and Chronic Disease Self-Management frameworks foster sustainable, positive skills development and behavioural change. Dietitians and exercise physiologists co-facilitate sessions. Participants are adult cancer survivors (completed active treatment) and/or carers.
Cancer Council NSW recognises the needs of carers through their inclusion in survivorship programs. ENRICH addresses carers health behaviours. Carers attending with survivors provide additional support for sustainable behaviour change.
Promotional material includes an invitation for survivors and/or carers to attend. Eligibility and suitability assessment also encourages survivors and/or carers to attend.
Format and content of the ENRICH program has been designed to be suitable for both survivors and carers across cancer types, ages and physical capabilities.
Outcomes/What was learned:
More survivors participate than carers because uptake is stronger when recommendation to attend is made by an oncology health professional. Carers might not recognise that supportive care needs could continue after treatment finishes. More work is needed to engage health professionals and carers to recognise, and act upon, these needs.
Evaluations showed no difference in enjoyment levels between survivors and carers. Both also reported the program was relevant to their own situations.