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Caring 4 Caregivers

Informal cancer caregivers have been shown to experience several physical, emotional, and social consequences leading to a reduced quality of life, an increased risk of all-cause mortality, and a reduced capacity to care for their loved ones. Exercise appears to be a potent intervention to improve their physical and emotional well-being but research in this area is lacking.

GOAL: The primary goal of this study will be to assess the feasibility and acceptability of a partner-based 12-week exercise intervention. We will also explore the preliminary effectiveness of the exercise program on caregiver burden and physical and psychological health of both the family caregiver and the care recipient.

WHO: Participants will include adult primary caregivers and cancer patients/survivors of all cancers and stages at any point along the cancer care trajectory provided they receive medical clearance. Participants will be solicited through our ongoing Activating Cancer Communities through an Exercise Strategy for Survivors (ACCESS) implementation-effectiveness study. All participants will be screened for eligibility and must be: 1) 18+ years; 2) able to perform discontinuous low intensity physical activity at a minimum; and 3) able to provide informed written consent in English. In addition, above, family caregivers must: 1) be currently providing physical and/or psychological support to an adult (+18 years) cancer patient/survivor; and 2) not be exceeding current Canadian physical activity guidelines. Patients/survivors and caregivers will be excluded from the study if they have any medical conditions that would disallow exercise. Caregivers will also be excluded if they are a bereaved caregiver.

HOW: Using both surveys and participant interviews, the participant experience and impact (e.g., physical and psychological health benefits) of a 12-week, partner-based exercise intervention will be evaluated. The 12-week exercise program will include a combination of aerobic, resistance, balance, and flexibility exercises delivered in a partner-based setting twice weekly at the QEII Dickson cancer and exercise lab.

IMPACT: Cancer is a disease in which both the patient and their family members are confronted by considerable physical and psychological stressors. This study will provide important information on the feasibility and effectiveness of physical activity in reducing cancer family caregiver burden and improving health outcomes for both the caregiver and patient/survivor.

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