When a volcano vents steam, explosive eruptions can often be avoided. The same can be said for people who vent their frustrations. A University of Iowa study is seeking people 55 and older who are the primary caregivers for a friend or family member who’s in the later stages of cancer. U-of-I nursing professor Howard Butcher plans to have the caregivers write in a journal about their daily experiences.
"The writing process itself somehow helps people gain a deeper understanding into their own experience and that new understanding creates a cognitive shift or a different frame of reference," Butcher says. "That new insight actually leads to or mediates physiological and psychological changes."
Butcher, the principal investigator for the study, says the caregivers will only be writing for 20 minutes at a time on six separate days over several weeks. He predicts the journaling will help them to let off a little steam, and eventually, feel better.
Butcher says, "We know that people who don’t talk about, or in this case, write about their thoughts and feelings tend to be more stressed, so it makes sense that when people ventilate and get their feelings out, that it would actually do the opposite — that is, promote health and well being."
Tending to a dying friend or relative day-in and day-out can bring about a host of feelings and frustrations. Butcher believes the study participants will see a positive impact on their own health. "I’ve done this study before with Alzheimer’s caregivers and the journaling that the caregivers were doing was very successful," Butcher says. "I found that, in the study, it reduced their stress. The journaling in this study for cancer caregivers is the same but I just wanted to see if it works in another population."
Butcher says the caregivers for the study do -not- need to be in the Iowa City area as much of the correspondence is done through the mail. Participants will be compensated for their time. For more information, call (319) 335-7039 or send e-mail to: [email protected] .