There is no denying the fact that patients diagnosed with Cancer go through a lot of physical and emotional stress. However, they are not the only ones going through this ordeal. The family members and close friends who care for such patients undergo a lot of physical and emotional strain too. It is not easy to see a loved one go through so much pain and suffering and still stay positive and smiling. It is impossible to imagine the suffering that caregivers go through since they are physically and physiologically healthy but their souls are crying.
However, as a caregiver, if there is one thing that you can do to help your loved one battling against Cancer, it is to take care of yourself along the journey. Imagine what would happen if the primary caregiver of a Cancer patient falls sick due to over-exhaustion or stress? It would just escalate the situation to a completely new level. Give yourself some Tender-Loving-Care (TLC).
Expectations from a Caregiver
Cancer caregivers are usually tasked with the following responsibilities:
- Ensuring that the patient takes medications on time
- Informing the doctor/s about side-effects (if any)
- Scheduling appointment (doctors, other therapists, etc.)
- Taking the patient for the appointments
- Managing all paperwork
- Managing all household tasks
- Providing psychological support, etc.
Some tips to help you through the process:
- Many times Cancer patients retrieve into a shell since they start feeling like a burden on the caregiver/s. Therefore, it is important that you encourage a two-way communication.
- Offer to sit with the patient during doctor visits and voice all small/big concerns openly.
- Don’t allow the disease to overwhelm either you or the patient.
- If you have people around, create a team who will fight the Cancer along with the patient. By doing so, you will have more time on hand and won’t over-exert or over-stress yourself.
Caregivers must take care of themselves
Remember, your loved one who has been diagnosed with Cancer is looking up to you for support and motivation. That does not mean that you start functioning like a martyr. On the contrary, think about how much care can you provide if you are not physically and emotionally in control of yourself? One way to take care of yourself is to follow more of our 7 Healing Practices. Another way is to schedule time off for yourself. A third way is to find or create a healing circle with other caregivers.
Essential Agreements for Healing Circles
Healing Circles has created a set of agreements that create a sense of safe space for any group drawn to deep intentional healing work. They work for a circle of people with cancer, a circle of caregivers, a circle of people with cancer and their significant others, or any other circle that needs to go deep for healing. The agreements are often read at the beginning of each circle as a reminder of what keeps the circle safe. They include:
- We treat each other with kindness and respect.
- We listen with compassion and curiosity.
- We honor each other’s unique ways to healing and don’t presume to advise or fix or try to save each other.
- We hold all stories shared in the circle in confidence.
- We trust that each of us has the guidance we need within us, and we rely on the power of silence to access it.
Note one key agreement is “don’t advise or fix.” This can be hard for any of us watching someone we love make choices we wouldn’t make. There is a place for advising outside a healing circle, but not in it.
Here are some tips for the caregivers:
- Living healthy: There are 4 basic pillars of living healthy:
- Good and healthy food
- An adequate amount of sleep
- Regular exercise
- Don’t try to be the lone-ranger: Caregiving can be an overwhelming process. Regular life is stressful enough for most of us. If you need to care for a Cancer patient, then the list of tasks can become virtually endless. Don’t burn yourself out. Ask for help. Friends, other family members, colleagues, neighbors, and anyone who can be of help.
- Mini-breaks are the key: Many caregivers experience burnout due to unmanageable stress and physical strain. Whenever possible, take a 5-10 minute break, meditate, and try to relax your mind, body, and soul.
- Support groups: It always helps to talk to people who are going through a similar experience. There are hundreds of caregiver support groups who help each other through the journey.
Remember, you can be an effective caregiver only when you care for yourself.
If you have a personal experience they can help others or a query, then you can write to us at [email protected]. We’ll make sure we respond to you as soon as possible.
References and More Information
- Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
- National Cancer Institute: Caring for the Caregiver
- My Cancer Circle: What Can I Do to Help?
- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: Caregiver Support
- American Cancer Society: If You’re About to Become a Cancer Caregiver
- Cancer Support Community: Caregivers: Remember Your Needs
- ASCO Cancer Net: Caregivers Taking Care of Themselves
- American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Family Caregiving/Care Guides: Help Caring for a Loved One with Cancer
- Houts PS, Bucher JA. Caregiving: A Step-By-Step Resource for Caring for the Person with Cancer at Home
- Pfizer Inc Living With Cancer: Livingwith App
- Caregiver Action Network
- Share the Care: Caregivers & Concerned Friends
- Senior Navigator. Caregiving
- Caregiving: A Step-By-Step Resource for Caring for the Person with Cancer at Home
- Anticancer Living
- Cancer Support Community
- A Systematic Review of Psychosocial Interventions to Cancer Caregivers
- Coping with Stress: The Distress Thermometer