A cancer diagnosis isn’t just devastating to the one receiving the diagnosis; it also deeply affects the individual taking on the role of the caregiver. Caring for a loved one with cancer is hard emotionally and physically.
As a caregiver, you provide the much-needed support for the loved one living with cancer. That support may be in the form of emotional, physical, financial, or even verbal. It’s most certainly not easy, but beneath all the feelings of sadness and being overwhelmed, you’ll experience moments that are comforting and rewarding.
Just remember, you’re not alone, and you can do this! We’re here to help. Here are a few things to keep in mind and help guide you in your new caregiver role.
Being a Caregiver is a Team Effort
When you become a caregiver, you’re often bombarded with so many new responsibilities. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and flustered. As you worry about your loved one’s health and recovery, you may find it challenging to balance your caregiver obligations with your family and work life and what is asked of you in those roles.
Being a caregiver doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. Instead, you’re a member of a much larger team made up of family members, friends, volunteers, and the cancer patient’s health care team. You’re all in it together and have the same goal – caring for and supporting someone living with cancer.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Every member of the team offers different skills and strengths that will help aid in providing effective care for your loved one. Rely on them for support so you don’t get burned out. No one expects you to be a one-person band, so don’t be one. You need to be healthy so you can perform your caregiver duties with a sound mind and body.
Accept Newfound Roles and Communicate
The role of being a caregiver is new to you and your loved one with cancer but in more ways than you may realize. Before becoming your loved one’s caregiver, you had a different role, such as spouse, child, or sibling. However, when you began taking care of them, your role – regardless of your previous relationship – shifted.
This shift in roles can put a strain on your relationship with your loved one. The two of you need to communicate and talk about the changes that are taking place. One of your most important jobs as the caregiver is speaking openly and often to the cancer patient. During these talks, you need to be upfront about your feelings and needs. The same goes for the person with cancer. You need to know how they are coping and what they say their needs are. Both of you need to listen with open ears and open minds. How to support someone with cancer in the family isn’t just something you know how to do. By having an open line of communication, the two of you can work together and be mindful of each other’s needs and new roles.
Stay Organized and Create a Caregiver Task List
Caring for a cancer patient at home isn’t as simple as just bringing them home. Cancer is a serious illness that usually requires a significant amount of doctor appointments and treatments. There’s a lot to keep track of, including medical history, medications, and test results. You also have to keep up with all your caregiving duties.
To help alleviate unnecessary stress, keep a record or journal with all appointments, results, medications, and any other details pertinent to your loved one’s cancer treatment. Try putting all relevant papers and notes in a folder or binder. This way, you have everything in one place for quick and easy reference.
Also, make a list of your daily responsibilities. Writing tasks down and being able to prioritize and see them listed in front of you can help wash away a lot of anxiety. Then, when you finish a task, cross it off. This will help you mentally and can push you to be proactive on this new caregiver journey. A scattered brain doesn’t do anyone any favors, so stay organized to help keep you calm and in control.
Don’t Make Everything About Cancer
This may seem kind of silly considering the circumstances, but it’s okay to take a break from the cancer. In fact, it’s healthy and will prove to be beneficial. Try not to bring up the topic of cancer unless your loved one does. Take time to just focus on your loved one and spend quality time together having fun. Just because your loved one has cancer doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and do some of the things you used to enjoy together before the cancer diagnosis.
This small action may help your loved one in ways you’d never know. They may not always want to be treated like the “sick person.” There are probably many days they’d like to pretend everything was back to normal. Allow them that small piece of time. Give them and yourself a break from cancer and all its stressors.
Go Easy On Yourself and Remember You Can Do It
Caregivers often feel like they have to do everything right. You’re going to make mistakes, and it’s okay that you do. You’re human. Let go of the guilt and be nice to yourself. Just continue to do the best that you can and continue to be supportive.
Caring for a loved one with cancer isn’t a role you can prepare for, but it’s absolutely a role you can learn. You and your loved one are on this cancer journey together. You’ll cry together, you’ll laugh together, and you’ll work together to navigate the trials ahead.