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How Caregivers For Cancer Patients Can Cope

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on Jan 31, 2017

Cancer patients require physical care and emotional support. So do their caregivers.

Family members, friends or companions have lots of responsibilities when helping cancer patients go through treatment and recovery. They provide personal hygiene care, drive to doctor appointments, handle insurance claims and clean the house.

Because patients sometimes return home shortly after chemotherapy, surgery or radiation treatments, caregivers have to deal with the challenges of side effects. They cook meals and administer medication. They often hold hands and listen.

They also facilitate information flow between the patient and health care providers. They record and report how well the patient is handling the treatments while at home. They also ask questions on behalf of patients and help them remember diagnoses and follow up orders from physicians and nurses.

The emotions of caregivers can run the gamut, however. At times, they are strong and resilient – happy to help a loved one or friend during a health crisis. At other times, they are tired and overwhelmed by the responsibilities and demands.

That’s why caregivers need to take care of their needs and find support. They can suffer from depression, exhaustion and other ailments if they don’t get the proper nutrition, rest and help from others.

The American Cancer Society has some coping advice for caregivers:

Get professional help if you think you need it.

“It’s normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes by caregiver responsibilities. But if it becomes a constant problem, you may need to see a mental health professional.

Take a break or time for yourself.

“Most caregivers hesitate to take a break from their caregiving responsibilities, even for a short time. In fact, most would probably feel guilty if they did this. But no one can be a caregiver every day, 24 hours a day, for many months and even years. Try to get out of the house and away from your loved one every day – even if it’s only to take a short walk or shop for food.”

Don’t try to do it all yourself. 

Caregiving alone for any period of time is not realistic. Reach out to others. Involve them in your life and in the things you must do for your loved one.”

Find support for yourself.

“The support of friends and family is key to both the person with cancer and the caregiver. There are many kinds of support programs, including one-on-one or group counseling and support groups. A support group can be a powerful tool for both people with cancer and those who care about them.

A Cancer Patient Navigator can provide the support a caregiver needs.

Johnson Memorial Health offers that service. The JMH Cancer Care Center has a navigator who helps patients and families with insurance problems, finding doctors, explaining treatment and care options, going with patients to visits, communicating with their health care team, assisting caregivers and managing medical paperwork.

Here are some support groups and caregiver information:

After Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCD) 
Offers support programs (online and telephone) for co-survivors. 

American Cancer Society's "I Can Cope" 
Offers support programs (in-person, online and telephone) for co-survivors. 

Cancer Support Community (formerly Gilda’s Club Worldwide and The Wellness Community) 
Offers support programs (in-person, online and telephone) for co-survivors. 

Offers personal, protected sites with multiple privacy settings where people can stay connected during any type of health event. Their Planner helps family and friends coordinate care and helpful tasks.  

My Cancer Circle
Offers an online tool for co-survivors to coordinate support activities (such as preparing meals and giving rides to treatment). 

Well Spouse Foundation 
Offers support services to spouses and partners of people living with breast cancer (or with other chronic illness) through letter writing, conferences and support groups. 

The JMH Cancer Care Center is located on the first floor, 1159 Building on the Johnson Memorial Hospital campus. Contact us at 317.736.3346.

Topics: Cancer