Young adults in their 20s and 30s can undoubtedly feel overwhelmed when a parent is diagnosed with cancer. Many have limited experience with caregiving, and may feel unprepared for their new role. And young adult caregivers who have relocated far from home to pursue a career or start a family may face even more challenges.
Ultimately, the question many young adults providing care from a distance grapple with is, “Should I stay or should I go?” It’s a difficult choice to make: Young adults may end up feeing guilty if they choose to “stay” in their current location, or feel obligated to “go” while making difficult sacrifices.
The decision to provide care from a distance or relocate closer to home to care for a parent often leads to feelings of uncertainty and isolation. For some young adults, relocation may not be financially feasible. Social and cultural demands to take an active role in caring for parents may also add feelings of pressure and stress. And caregiving, whether locally or from a long distance, can also drastically impact intimacy and relationships, as well as children and family life.
Young adults who must contend with competing commitments and responsibilities often feel that their busy lives are barriers to getting support. That’s why, for many young adult caregivers, and indeed anyone coping with a cancer diagnosis, online support groups are an ideal option for sharing difficult feelings with peers in a similar situation.
Professionally led, age-specific groups such as CancerCare’s Young Adult Caregivers Online Support Group offer a safe space for group members to share experiences and feel part of a virtual community of support. Online groups allow for flexibility, as members can share their thoughts and feelings and offer advice and support at any time from anywhere with an internet connection.
Many young adults caring for a parent with cancer find these groups to be incredibly rewarding experiences that help them define and make sense of their new role. CancerCare’s specialized services can ultimately reduce distress and enhance the coping of young adult caregivers as they consider whether to stay or to go.
Author: Carly Mesavitz, LMSW, Oncology Social Worker, CancerCare