Learning about cancer and how to support a loved one can seem like a daunting
experience. There are a wide range of emotions as you try to be there
for your loved one and understand the disease process. Cancer is a journey
for loved ones as well as for those fighting the disease.
Selecting a doctor or doctors and a facility can be a stressful time for
your loved one. Once care has begun, your love done may have specific
needs where you can help, or may just need someone to listen.
Knowing what your loved one is facing is important. Arming yourself with
information is a great start. This website offers information about us,
our services, and dealing with cancer. In our other sections, we have
a wealth of information about specific kinds of cancer, including diagnosis,
treatment options, research, and support.
Our cancer navigator program is a free and confidential service, and is
also available for loved ones. In addition, we offer support groups and
resources for caregivers. There are also local and online support groups
for patients and caregivers. Check with our cancer navigator or your loved
one's doctor for more information.
Caring for the Caregiver
Caregivers come in all shapes and sizes. They can be adult children, spouses,
siblings, friends or neighbors, who help with daily activities such as
bathing, feeding and clothing. The caregiver may be the only person who
can take a loved one to doctors' appointments. The long-distance caregiver
may call weekly, help with expenses or support the main caregiver.
According to the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA), more than
65 million people provide a level of care to a loved one with a chronic
disease each year. More than one relative helps out in some families,
but most caregivers go it alone. Caregiving can be demanding and time
consuming; it may even increase the risk of acquiring stress related disorders.
How to succeed
These tips are drawn from professional, government and charitable groups:
the American Society on Aging, the Federal Administration on Aging, The
Family Caregiver Alliance, Children of Aging Parents and the NFCA.
Don't go it alone
- Ask others for help. Start with family and friends. Keep less engaged family
members informed. Set up a family conference, seek suggestions and talk
- Ask families with similar problems how they handled them.
- Involve the person you're caring for. If possible, help the person
take responsibility and join in decisions.
- Learn about your loved one's condition. Find specialists for information
- Tap local, state and national resources. They can offer help with transportation,
nutrition or day care.
Watch for problems - mental and physical signs of caregiver stress:
- A lot of anger or fear
- A tendency to overreact
- Feeling depressed, isolated or overburdened
- Thoughts of guilt, shame or inadequacy
- Taking on more than you can handle
- Digestive upsets
- Weight loss or gain
- Trouble sleeping
- Take time out
Be good to yourself. Take time away from caregiving and don't neglect
your personal and professional needs:
- Get lots of rest and exercise.
- Enjoy relaxing music.
- Eat nutritious meals.
- Visit with friends, plan leisure activities.
- Do deep breathing.
- Read a magazine.
- Don't abuse alcohol or drugs, or overeat.
- Keep a sense of humor.
- Write your feelings in a journal.
- Do spiritual meditation.
- Set limits on what you can and cannot do.
- Realize you're doing the best you can.
- Join a support group.
- Use community resources for help.