Caring for a cancer patient can be difficult both physically and emotionally. You are a critical member of your loved one’s healthcare team, so it is crucial for you to know all of the resources available to you to ensure that you are taking the best care of yourself, so that you can be at your best for your loved one.
At the doctor’s office:
- Keep a list of questions to ask the treatment team; make sure that you understand the answers; you may need to rephrase questions for more clarification. Don’t be afraid to ask further questions until you understand.
- Take notes and keep records
- Share your worries with the treatment team
- Ask about resources – Your treatment team has information about many different types of programs and services that may be of help to you.
Get help. Treatment schedules, managing a sick patient at home, and many other things can leave you feeling like you have no time. A few things you can do include:
- You may be able to utilize the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program to take your patient to treatment when you are not able to do so. This program is free but usually requires 24 hours notice.
- The patient may qualify for home services programs through insurance or other programs. Even if he/she does not, you can still ask friends and family to assist you with other routine tasks such as grocery shopping and food preparation, childcare and housekeeping.
- Reassess your priorities and don’t worry about the small things. Perfectly folded towels may not be essential at this time.
Get the support you need.
- Join a support group, either in-person or online. Whether you want to share your experiences or just listen, groups can help you better cope just by knowing that you are not alone.
- Explore your spirituality. Many caregivers look to their faith to understand what is happening and to find meaning in the cancer experience. Read from inspirational books, talk to your minister, or pray.
- Keep your own medical appointments. Make sure that you are getting the medical attention you need to maintain your good health.
- Be honest with yourself about your feelings. Many caregivers can be stressed and overwhelmed by their loved one’s illness. Sadness, anger, guilt and other emotions are normal at this time. If you are unable to get past these feelings and they are starting to affect other aspects of your life, however, don’t be afraid to ask for counseling.
Keep as much of your “old” life as possible to avoid burnout
- Try to attend as many of your old activities as possible; it helps you to maintain perspective and to avoid isolation. Keep in touch with your friends and take advantage of opportunities to visit when you can.
- Stay active; whether you’re playing with the dog or staying current with your yoga group, it will help you to relieve stress and stay healthy.
- Do something special for yourself every day. Even if it’s a 5 minute rest to catch one of your favorite TV programs or plant a few flowers in your garden, it can help to re-energize you for the balance of the day.
Being a caregiver can be challenging, indeed, but it can also be a rewarding experience. By utilizing a safety net of support groups, faith, friends and other resources, you can maintain your own good health to be the best caregiver you can be.