University of Calgary

University of Calgary

February 29, 2012 17:22 ET

University of Calgary: Grandparents suffer in silence

Grandparents' worry is doubled when a grandchild is diagnosed with cancer

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Feb. 29, 2012) - If you have a grandchild suffering with a cancer diagnosis, expect that it may potentially be a time of "silenced suffering," says a new study from the University of Calgary's Faculty of Nursing, published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing.

Nursing professor, Dr Nancy Moules, who holds a Nursing Professorship in Child and Family Centred Cancer Care with the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation and Research Institute, recently completed the largest study to date on the experiences of grandparents who have had a grandchild diagnosed with, and treated for, childhood cancer. Funded by the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta (KCCFA), Moules and her colleagues from the University of Calgary and Alberta Children's Hospital intensively examined how grandparents simultaneously worry "double" for their grandchildren while suffering for their own children, the parents of the children with cancer.

"Our results indicate that this 'out of sync' event in life calls many things into question for this third generation of the family system," says Moules. "Always protective of their children, grandparents anguish, often in silence, protecting their own children from the burden of their worry but still experiencing the, often unspeakable concern, for their grandchildren."

Carl and Tari Hendrie, whose grandson Brad was diagnosed with cancer at age six, participated in the study. "It was a very difficult time for our family and for us as Brad's grandparents," says Carl now. "We felt we needed to be strong because we didn't want anyone to have to worry about us as well as Brad. Our daughter's family life turned upside down and so did ours but we all got through it."

Moules says Carl's experience is not uncommon. "Grandparents in the study agreed and offered advice to other grandparents going through this or similar experiences. For example, they suggested helping normalize a time of life that is nothing close to normal. Also, as hard as it is, they may have to be silent about their worry, recognizing that their own children are bearing burden enough without contending with care for their parents." Moules also said a suggestion from grandparents to health care professionals is that grandparents needed their suffering to be noticed by them and, minimally, to be simply acknowledged.

A second publication will also appear in the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing and will be available on the KCCFA website. Ways in which grandparents' advice can be respected and heeded are being investigated by Moules and her team for implementation at Alberta Children's Hospital.

Media are invited to meet Moules and Hendrie on Thursday 1 March between 9:30 and 11 at the Faculty of Nursing Research Office, Room 2250, Professional Faculties Building, University of Calgary.

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