23 Sep Six Tips for Caregivers of Cancer Patients
Finding out that a loved one has cancer can be emotional, stressful, and devastating. Add the pressures of understanding their cancer treatment and health needs, and caregivers quickly become overwhelmed with attending to their loved ones.
Being a caregiver takes setting boundaries, balancing your priorities, and lots of empathy. If you are a caregiver for a loved one with cancer, it’s important to know that you do not have to bear the weight of it all on your own.
Caregiver Support: Helping Your Loved One Through Cancer Treatment
At Alabama Cancer Care, we are invested in each one of our patients’ cancer journeys. For cancer patients, the success of their process through cancer treatment and into recovery is often affected by their support system at home.
We want to offer caregivers the resources they need to provide consistent care, overcome caregiver burnout, and remain physically and emotionally healthy themselves. These six tips for caregivers for cancer patients should help each caregiver navigate their new normal in a way that’s healthy and appropriate for them and their loved ones.
1. Stay Informed
The first step is to learn as much as you can about your loved one’s cancer. Understanding the type of cancer, cancer treatment options, what to expect from radiation therapy, and how to deal with side effects will help you to educate yourself and make well-informed decisions. Meet with the oncologist and healthcare team, ask questions, and request patient cancer resources. The more you know about their cancer type, the more confident you will feel making decisions for their care.
2. Follow Their Lead
This process takes an unfathomable toll on a recently-diagnosed cancer patient. Regardless of how close you feel to the situation or if you think you know better, always start by listening to your loved one. Follow your loved one’s lead – whether they want to talk it out, sleep, or cry, meet them where they are.
3. Find Your Support System
Your loved one isn’t the only one who needs support throughout this journey. Find a group of friends, family members, and other caregivers to have open, honest conversations about your struggles. It’s normal for you to feel overwhelmed or need a break from your loved one with cancer. Instead of allowing resentment to build as a result of shared fears, process your emotions with your trusted loved ones. Having your own circle of people who can encourage you and be there for you will help you have a positive attitude as a caregiver.
4. Accept Help
Don’t only accept help from those who offer, but feel confident to ask for help from your support system. Learn how to say “yes” when someone volunteers to do something for you – even if you feel like you could do it better yourself. Make a list of your daily, weekly, and monthly responsibilities as a caregiver so that when someone asks to help, you can easily delegate a task to them. Letting a friend do something as simple as going to the grocery store for you can give you the break you didn’t even know that you needed.
5. Stay Organized
Don’t overwhelm yourself more than you already are by managing your loved one’s appointments and needs. Instead, stay organized with a daily planner, bullet lists, or whatever system works for you. Keep track of your loved one’s medical history, doctors’ appointments, prescriptions, pharmacy information, and doctors’ names and contact information. You’ll relieve and reduce stress when you don’t have to scramble when it’s time to get a cancer treatment or go to the pharmacy.
6. Make Time For Yourself
Start by allowing yourself to grieve the life you had before you became a caregiver. It’s natural to miss your personal time, but try your best to focus on each day as it comes. Being present can help you to identify and meet your own needs. Take a break from cancer and do something relaxing or fun. Go for a walk, watch your favorite movie, call your best friend, curl up with a good book, or listen to music. Even if it’s only for a few minutes each day, participating in something that you love will make you feel energized, relaxed, and content.