The Many Roles of Cancer Caregivers

When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it can be a shattering experience. When focusing on emotional responses, it’s not only the patient who suffers. Caregivers (especially those that are family caregivers), tend to have a strong emotional response. This can require caregivers to take part in coaching, which is separate from the patient’s support.

Just like that, your life can change. It’s important to adjust, providing the best possible care, while tending to your own personal health. When you decide to become the primary caregiver, you will be assuming various roles. There will be a lot that’s expected from you.

You will need to medically and nutritionally supervise, manage symptoms, provide emotional support and companionship, assist with daily activities, provide direct care, and more. Always remember that there is hope and help close by. If you become overwhelmed and are not able to care for your loved one, there are some incredible support workers, nurses, caregivers, and organizations that are available.

What Roles to Expect as a Caregiver When Your Loved One Has Cancer

As a family caregiver, you will need to take part in administrative tasks, such as insurance claims and finances; instrumental tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, doctor’s appointments, personal errands; social support; and more. The following roles will be crucial when caring for your loved one.

Becoming a Decision Maker

Throughout your loved one’s disease, you will need to make some tough decisions. One day you may need to make important decisions regarding your loved one’s finances, then the next day, you’ll need to make a decision about treatment. As a caregiver, it’s important to seek out the best options. Just remember, the Internet should not be your only source of information (especially if sources are unprofessional and unreliable).

It’s been found that many caregivers seek out advice from others (including family and friends), look for alternative treatment options, while double checking the information that’s provided by the doctor. Although this can be a great idea, as mentioned, make sure that your sources are reliable. It never hurts to get a second, professional opinion.

Doctor’s can give you their professional opinion, but there will be many decisions that only you, your loved one, and family can make. Before making decisions, ensure that you exhaust your reliable resources. Source information regarding health promotion, treatment options, minimizing symptoms, side-effects, and more.

Becoming an Advocate

Depending on your loved one’s condition, you will more than likely need to take on an advocate role. This will typically involved the more administrative tasks such as: making lifestyle changes, paying bills on time, organizing insurance claims, renewing prescriptions, encouraging treatment, documenting changes in side-effects and symptoms, seeking symptom relief, and more.

Becoming an Effective Communicator

When contemplating treatment options, communication is essential. Unfortunately, communication between doctors and patients can be poor if individuals are older, have low levels of education, or are part of a very different culture. When communication is hindered, so are one’s ability to understand their symptoms and treatment options; as well as their need for continued support and care.

When family caregivers are involved, they typically take on this communicator role for their loved one. Not all information will be easy to process and accept. However, your ability to manage and utilize the information, will be crucial in terms of overall progress.

You should also have open communication with your loved one’s doctor. Keep track of symptoms, especially if there are any changes. It’s normal to feel frightened and overwhelmed, just remember that you’re not alone. You are the doctor’s eyes and ears while at home, so make sure you’re open and honest. Your observations could potentially have a substantial impact when choosing treatment options.

Becoming a Hands-on Caregiver

When caring for a loved one, you will want to ensure that they’re as comfortable as possible. Managing one’s pain-level and symptoms, will be a large part of your role as a caregiver. This of course relates to medication distribution. Keep records based on medications and the way they impact your loved one’s symptoms.

As cancer develops into the later stages, there will be new side-effects emerging. In up to 68% of cancer patients, fatigue and sleep problems are an issue; up to 40% experience vomiting and other related-stomach complications; and up to 50% experience mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

You may need to adjust your caregiving strategies, based on the symptoms that begin to surface. This is why symptom management is so important, especially regarding the recovery process. You want to keep your loved one as positive as possible, while maintaing a healthy lifestyle (promoting healthy diet-related choices, exercising when possible, and promoting stress management).

Becoming a Social Support System

When focusing on pain and cancer symptoms, social support can have a great impact. Due to the chronic nature of cancer, both caregivers and patients often see diminishing social support over time. Before you become overwhelmed or you burnout, ask for help.

Continually network with friends and family members. You can ask for assistance regarding tasks such as grocery shopping, so that you can spend more valuable time with your loved. It’s important that your loved one’s life does not become solely based on cancer. It’s important to play a game of chess, laugh, read, and any other activity that you enjoy together.

Across the country, there are also various organizations and assistance programs. Do not wait until your health declines to ask for help. You’re not alone in this battle. For more information, please feel free to visit the Canadian Cancer Society. There’s also an excellent platform that provides online support, known as Cancer Chat.

photo credit: National Assembly For Wales / Cynulliad Cymru via photopin cc

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