If You Are Caring for An Older Adult with Colorectal Cancer, Please Don’t Skip Your Dental Appointment

At Fight CRC, we discuss caregiving often within our resources and also in our conversations with the community. We address the challenges, how to get support, how to avoid burnout, and we provide an avenue for you, as caregivers, to share your story.

We address the topic of caregiving because many advocates and colon and rectal cancer fighters are caregivers. While they aren’t the ones going through colorectal cancer (CRC)  treatments and side effects, they are certainly on their own cancer journey.

A New Poll Addresses Long-Term Caregiving

A recent report from a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (AP-NORC) demonstrated that caregivers of people age 65 or older are skipping out on their own health care needs. The poll includes over 1,000 interviews and utilizes a nationally representative sample of American adults who consider themselves long-term caregivers.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of Americans 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million (in 2016) to over 98 million by 2060 – making up almost 24% of the U.S. population. Clearly, there will be many older adults who may require some type of care – including cancer care.

Colorectal Cancer and Caregiving

While there are a number of factors that increase the risk of colon and rectal cancers – one, which we cannot control, is age. In fact, the median age at diagnosis for colon cancer is 68 in men and 72 in women. For rectal cancer, it is 63 years of age in both men and women. Approximately 90% of colorectal cancer patients are over age 50.

Because most colorectal cancer patients are older adults, it may be likely that their caregivers are around their same age or the caregiver is an adult child.

Young people can get colorectal cancer too. It’s important to pay attention to symptoms and talk to your doctor about screening. Learn more about early-age onset CRC here.

Caregivers of colorectal cancer patients need support. Caring for a loved one can be challenging physically, mentally, and emotionally – from the time of initial diagnosis, addressing the needs of the patient through the cancer continuum, and also addressing the continual uncertainty that comes along with a cancer diagnosis.

The good news is, due to colorectal cancer screening and early detection, new colorectal cancers in older adults (over age 50) have been on the decline since the mid-1980s according to data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program data.

However, the number of new diagnoses is still quite high. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), in 2018 there are an estimated 97,220 new cases of colon cancer and 43,030 new cases of rectal cancer – which means that there could be just as many caregivers.

About the Poll

According to the AP-NORC Poll, the following are interesting considerations of adult caregivers (over age 18):

  • 8 in 10 pay for costs associated with caregiving out of their own pockets
  • One-fourth  have reduced how much money they save for their personal retirement as a result of caregiving expense
  • One-fourth  say caregiving makes it hard to manage their own health
  • Only 54% have a plan in place for who would provide care if they were no longer able to
  • People cope with the stresses of caregiving in both healthy and unhealthy ways. 63% cope with difficult caregiving situations through prayer or meditation. 44% sleepless, and 17% drink more alcohol
  • Close to 75% of caregivers over age 40 report feelings of loneliness.
  • 90%, of caregivers, accompany their care receiver to the medical appointment, and 70% of those people go into the exam room.
  • Less than a quarter of caregivers have talked to their personal doctors about the role they’re playing as a caregiver. However, of that group, ¾ received guidance on how to make sure their needs are met.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a caregiver, don’t forget to also take good care of yourself by engaging in the activities that make you happy, eating well, staying hydrated, managing stress and taking note of your personal needs.

It’s a good idea to connect with a social worker or other mental health professionals before you begin to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Also – tell YOUR doctor about what you’re going through. They may be able to provide resources for you or offer support for when you need it.

To speak to someone to help find resources in your area, contact the Fight CRC Resource Line in partnership with the Cancer Support Community: 1-877-427-2111 from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. The call line is available in 200 languages.

If you’re looking for more information about older adults and colorectal cancer, watch the re-cap of Fight CRC’s webinar: Older Adults and Colorectal Cancer with Dr. Grant Williams.


Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2019

The Populations Reference Bureau. Aging in the United States.