Cancer and Caregivers

Cancer & caregivers

A helpful guide for those caring for patients diagnosed with cancer

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, life changes for not only the patient but for his or her loved ones too. One of the people who will be most affected by these life changes is the caregiver — the key person who will be caring and looking after the patient with cancer. In many cases, a caregiver is the spouse or a close family member of the person with cancer.

You’re much needed

In this day and age, most patients with cancer receive outpatient treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which does not require a stay at the hospital. During the patient’s time at home, a caregiver is needed to help out and look after the patient.

Many caregivers are only concerned about the well-being of the patient and forget about their own state of well-being. However, this should not be the case as caring for a cancer patient with poor health can adversely compromise the quality of love and care that can be provided. If you or someone you know is a caregiver to a cancer patient, here are some steps that will ensure a better healing experience for both the caregiver and the patient.

Don’t forego the things you love

When you become a caregiver, there are a lot of sacrifices you might have to make along the way. For example, you may not be able to spend as much time out of the house as you used to. It is true that there are some adjustments you’ll have to make in life but there are also some things you should retain such as your hobbies. If you enjoy painting or a particular sport, be sure to allocate some time for it. Doing the things you love can be very therapeutic and will help you to relieve your stress.

Don’t do it alone

It’s alright if you are the main caregiver but if possible, you should not be the only caregiver. This makes things less strenuous as you will be able to take breaks and rest, now and again. Get help from the people around you who have offered to lend a helping hand. Pull together a team of caregivers consisting of family members, neighbours, friends and homecare nurses. Then, take shifts or perhaps allocate tasks to ease a long to-do list. For example, if you’ve have relatives visiting over the weekend, get their help to clean the house or get your neighbours to help with the weekly groceries.

Have a caregiving plan

Being organised is the key when it comes to eliminating unnecessary stress. Plot out a caregiver’s plan as this way, you’ll be able to manage the health and well-being of the patient you’re looking after, as well as your own. A caregiver’s plan allows you to look and plan ahead, avoid conflicts when it comes to schedules and reduce your stress.

To make a caregiver’s plan, you must first speak to the patient you’re looking after and consider the level of care that is needed. Then, if there are other caregivers who can help you out, speak to the team about what is needed before plotting out a plan. For example, if the patient will be undergoing weekly chemotherapy treatment, discuss who will be responsible for going to the hospital with the patient. Apply the same method for every other task on the plan. You should also include emergency and important contact numbers on this plan. Once finalised, make copies pass one to each person involved.

Take comfort in others

Caregiving can take up a lot of your time, especially if you’re the main caregiver. When you’re caught up with looking after someone, you might feel a loss when it comes to your personal time and feel emotionally and physically overwhelmed. Although caregiving might take up a large percentage of your time, don’t forget that you’re still allowed to have a life of your own.

Spending time with those who are close to you, will help you to cope with the possible stress and challenges you might face as a caregiver. Find comfort in others. Being in the presence of people you trust will help you find support, instead of burying or hiding your feelings.

Take mini breaks

Mini stress breaks are a great way for you to replenish your energy and calm yourself down. It’s easy to fall into the trap of overwhelming yourself with one task after another such as keeping the patient company, sorting out the laundry and so on.

When the patient is resting or undergoing treatment, you should take some time off for yourself. Walk around the garden, enjoy a 10-minute shut-eye on a comfortable chair or find peace by getting in touch with your spiritual side. Taking time off for yourself is not a selfish act. As a matter of fact, it is necessary to ensure that you are in the right state of mind.

There’s no need to feel guilty for taking breaks or allocating tasks to others. Remember, what is most important is that you are in the best state to give your all when caring for the patient as your presence and support is essential during the patient’s journey to recovery.

5 mistakes to avoid as a caregiver

  1. Skip meals
  2. Abuse alcohol or other substances
  3. Compromise your sleep
  4. Neglect your health
  5. Keep emotions and feelings to yourself

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