$25,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds launches Cancer Caregiver Community Program at Karmanos Cancer Institute, Farmington Hills

The Karmanos Cancer Institute will create a Cancer Caregiver Community Program at its Farmington Hills location thanks to an award from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan for a grant of $25,000 from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds. The program will be complimentary and open to all caregivers caring for loved ones with cancer. Services will include support groups, art therapy, yoga and much more. Erin Keith, oncology art therapist at Karmanos, works with caregivers and patients to process emotions through creativity. Photo by Patricia A. Ellis

DETROIT – The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has awarded the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute a $25,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds to support the Cancer Caregiver Community Program at Karmanos’ Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center in Farmington Hills, Mich. Karmanos was among 33 organizations in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St. Clair, and Livingston counties that received a grant from endowment funds created to carry on the legacy of giving of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.

Need for Cancer Caregiver-Focused Program

On any given day, more than 100 cancer patients receive treatment and clinical services at Karmanos’ outpatient clinic in Farmington Hills and most of those patients are accompanied by their caregivers – family members or friends who experience first-hand the emotional, physical and mental stress of seeing a loved one go through their cancer journey. Caregiving can include everyday tasks such as helping a loved one with medications, taking them to doctor visits, preparing meals, scheduling appointments and helping with health insurance matters, just to name a few. Caregivers also give emotional and spiritual support to help their loved one deal with tough decisions due to their illness.

The demands on caregivers are increasing as more cancer patients are living longer and manage most of their care at home. Hospital stays are shorter, most treatments are outpatient and some can be given outside of the of clinic setting, such as oral chemotherapy. Family caregivers work with health care teams to fulfill this important role for the patient’s health and quality of life.

There are many wonderful supportive services available for cancer patients, complementary therapies and integrative approaches that help improve the quality of life for cancer patients. However, more programs are needed for caregivers – whatever their age – to help them manage the stress of having a loved one diagnosed with cancer.

According to Kathleen Hardy, LMSW, oncology social worker and counselor at Karmanos in Farmington Hills, “Caregivers are the unsung heroes of the cancer journey. They often put themselves on the back burner to take care of their loved one. Cancer affects not only the person diagnosed with the disease but the people who love and care for them.

“Caregivers can sometimes feel isolated, alone and guilty for feeling so overwhelmed from caring for their loved one. They place unrealistic expectations on themselves as they take on new roles within the family.”

Hardy added, “In order to truly help a loved one, you need to fill your own reservoir first.”

Having a program specifically designed to support cancer caregivers is an opportunity for cancer clinicians and staff to further help their patients by making sure the needs of their caregivers are also met.

“We will continue to do everything we can for our patients’ successful outcome. Now, thanks to this grant, we will be able to expand our services to caregivers and have a program focused on the family and friends who care for their loved ones living with cancer or a history of cancer.”

How to Get Involved

Karmanos conducted a needs assessment to gather input from caregivers in order to design a program that would help reduce the stress for those caring for a loved one with cancer. Services will be complimentary and open to all caregivers from the community. Services will include daytime and evening support groups, individual art therapy, massage, Reiki, yoga, tai chi, makeovers, mediation classes and music therapy.

Erin Keith, oncology art therapist at Karmanos

To learn more about the Cancer Caregiver Community Program or to receive a list of upcoming services, contact Hardy at hardyk@karmanos.org or call her at 248-538-4712. For information on all Karmanos services, visit www.karmanos.org or call 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266.)

“We are grateful that the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan recognizes the need for cancer caregiver services and we’re honored to receive this grant to establish an integrated program, thanks to the generosity of Ralph Wilson, Jr., and the legacy fund formed in his name,” said Katrina Studvent, chief development office, Karmanos Cancer Institute. “It’s grants like this and others gifts from the community that support our services to cancer patients as well as their loved ones impacted by this challenging disease.”

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation established these endowment funds at the Community Foundation to provide support to areas that were important to Mr. Wilson during his lifetime: Caregiving, Design and Access, Grosse Pointe Community Assets, and Youth Sports. Endowment funds are designed to grow over time and provide funding for charitable causes according to the client’s wishes, forever.

The endowment funds at the Community Foundation are complementary to the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s efforts to create immediate impact and long-term benefit within the communities of Southeast Michigan and Western New York.