Every cancer patient has one or more caregivers. Caregivers are individuals who provide care to chronically ill or disabled family members or friends. It is estimated that more than one quarter of the adult population, or more than fifty million people, have been caregivers. Men now make up 44% of the caregiving population; and family caregivers provide, for “free”, an estimated $257 billion per year in services. The role of caregivers is expected to increase as the population ages; however, the number of individuals available for caregiving will diminish.
- Serve as advocates for their patient
- Understand the patient’s needs to socialize
- Become familiar with insurance and financial matters
Helping someone go through a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery requires understanding, encouragement, patience and energy. Caregivers become part advocate, nurse, organizer and financial analyst in addition to maintaining their other responsibilities. Caring for someone with a life-threatening disease can be emotionally and physically draining. Caregiver burn-out can occur even when caring for a dearest loved one. For this reason, you are encouraged to:
- Take control of your life. You must remember to continue to live your life and not allow it to completely revolve around your loved one’s illness.
- Remember to take care of and be kind to yourself. The job you are performing is difficult and can be taxing. It is important for you to have personal quality time, to do what you like, for you.
- Be aware of how you are feeling emotionally. Depression is common for individuals in your position. Seek professional help immediately if you are experiencing signs of depression.
- Accept assistance from others when offered and make specific suggestions as to what they can do.
- Get educated. The more you know about your loved one’s condition, the more empowered you will feel.
- Support your loved one’s independence. Caring for somebody does not necessarily entail doing everything for them. New technologies and ideas provide options that help promote a healthy level of independence.
- Listen to your heart. Your gut instincts most often lead you in the right direction.
- Allow yourself to grieve. Then allow yourself to move forward and dream of new possibilities and experiences.
- Seek support from other caregivers and obtain strength and comfort in the understanding of others in similar situations. You are not alone.
Additional Information for Caregivers
- Communicating with Doctors and Managing Hospitalization
- Taking Care of You: Self-care for Family Caregivers
- Caregiving and Sibling Relationships: Challenges and Opportunities
Knowledge is power. Are you supporting a loved one through their cancer journey? Join ongoing discussions with other caregivers in the CancerConnect private online caregiver community here.