Archive for ‘love and relationships’

April 14, 2011

Zeta Jones diagnosis highlights war on cancer is hell on the homefront too: Caregivers face depression

Yesterday Catherine Zeta Jones’ rep released the following statement: “After dealing with the stress of the past year, Catherine made the decision to check in to a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat her bipolar II disorder. She’s feeling great and looking forward to starting work this week on her two upcoming films.”

Forbes reports that the statement “rocketed into Twitter’s top 10 trending topics in the United States.”

Zeta Jones, the Oscar and Tony Award winning actress is married to Michael Douglass, who is now recovering from a year long battle with cancer.

Ms. Zeta Jones revelation may have come as a surprise to fans and the mainstream media, but studies of caregivers have long shown that in the case of Alzheimer’s, for example, the caregiver is vulnerable to depression that persists and may be irreversible even after the person they were caring for dies.

Even in less extreme cases, like admission to ICU, a recent study showed how vulnerable the caregiver is to depression.

This research reveals that loved ones of critically ill patients have profound and unmet needs for assistance even after hospital discharge. The emotional and economic burden is enormous, and these issues must be addressed.Our previous studies indicate that caregivers often change their lives to care for recovering patients, including quitting work, taking lower-paying jobs or leaving college in order to spend more time at home. These are highly stressful choices, and it is imperative that we develop interventions to help families cope with the burden of critical illness even after they have left the hospital.

This story and this research resonates with me. I am that someone who cared for my mother while a rare liver cancer devoured her body and then left behind a 65 pound carcass for me to bury. Before she died my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and colon cancer (BOGO!). He has outlived his prognosis by 4 years. But wait, there’s more. My brother who has Down Syndrome has been suffering from severe intermittent psychosis because he misses his mom. I also take care of him and have for the last 17 years since he moved in with me.

A friend’s email signature ends with the following quote from Peter Abrahams:

To live with the conscious knowledge of the shadow of uncertainty, with the knowledge that disaster or tragedy could strike at any time; to be afraid and to know and acknowledge your fear, and still to live creatively and with unstinting love: that is to live with grace.

I wish Ms. Zeta Jones all the best and thank her for going public with her story, which may awaken an awareness in our culture that, when it comes to caregiving, war is hell on the homefront too.

Click on image to start video from CNN.