What Is a Cancer Caregiver?
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The American Society of Cancer defines a cancer caregiver as the person who most often helps the person with cancer and is not paid to do so.
Caregivers may be partners, family members, or close friends. Most often, they’re not trained for the caregiver job. Many times, they’re the lifeline of the person with cancer.
Caregivers have many roles. These roles change as the patient’s needs change during and after cancer treatment.
Nowadays alot of cancer treatment is performed in centers or in doctor’s offices and after the treatment most of the time a patient will become sick. It is up to the caregiver to provide the proper treatment measures for the patient, which is usually a relative, a friend or a loved one whom the caregiver is close to.
“As a caregiver, you have a huge influence – both positive and negative – on how the cancer patient deals with their illness. Your encouragement can help the patient stick with a demanding treatment plan and take other steps to get well, like eating healthy meals or getting enough rest,” The American Society of Cancer website posted.
You may find yourself doing things like:
■ Giving drugs.
■ Reporting problems.
■ Trying to keep other family members and friends informed of what’s happening.
■ Helping to decide whether a treatment is working.
■ Keeping up morale for your loved one.
It will be a caregivers’ job to learn about treatments. The carecariver will have to learn how to keep track of prescriptions, know which tests are to be done, and make sure all involved doctors know what’s going on. Sometimes a caregiver’s job is never done and they even have to do administrative work for their loved one. Like for example taking care of the paperwork that is involved with their medical treatment. They will need to become the expert on everything medically related to the patient.
A caregiver will also have to take on the day to day tasks of daily living skills for the patient who is ill with cancer.
A caregiver may find them doing things such as:
■ Shop for and prepare food.
■ Making sure the patient eats by feeding them a balanced meal.
■ Giving medication to the patient and making sure the doctor’s orders are followed in regards to said medication.
■ Help bathe, groom, and dress the patient.
■ Help with toiletry(help with bathroom duties).
■ Clean house and help do the laundry.
■ Make sure bills are paid.
■ Find emotional support
■ Take your loved one to and from doctor’s appointments, tests, and treatments
■ Manage medical problems at home
■ Coordinate cancer care before and after treatments by making sure the patient is comfortable at home.
■ Decide when to seek health care or see a doctor for a new problem.
Communication is very important when involving the patient. A caretaker’s role is important because a caretaker needs to relay information back to the patient and to the rest of the patient’s family. It can be a difficult task but someone has to stepp up and take on the job. Here are some important facts according to the American Cancer Society to get the patient back involved with their daily life:
■ “Help them live as normal a life as possible. To do this you might start by helping them decide what activities are most important. They may need to put aside those that are less important in order to do the things enjoyed the most.”
■ “Encourage them to share feelings and support their efforts to share. For instance, if they begin talking to you about their feelings about cancer, don’t change the subject. Listen and let them talk. You might want to share how you’re feeling, too.”
■ “Let the patient know you’re available, but don’t press issues. For example, if they’re trying to do something, such as dress themselves – they might be struggling, but it’s important for them to be able to do this. You may want to do it for them, but don’t. Let them decide when they need help.”
■ “Remember that people communicate in different ways. Try sharing by writing or by using gestures, expressions, or touch. Sometimes, it may be really hard to say what you’re feeling, but a gesture such as holding hands might show how you feel.”
■ “Take your cues from the person with cancer. Some people are very private while others will talk more about what they’re going through. Respect the person’s need to share or his need to remain quiet.”
■ “Be realistic and flexible about what you hope to talk about and agree on. You may need or want to talk, only to find that the patient doesn’t want to do it at that time.”
■ “Respect the need to be alone. Sometimes, we all need time alone – even you.”
When a person has cancer, they go through different stages. Your understanding and your care will change over time, too. There will be times when you don’t know what will happen next, and with an illness as serious as cancer, that’s a scary place to be. However, hopeful is the outcome, there are no guarantees in cancer care. There’s no way to know for sure whether treatment will work. No one can predict the side effects or problems your loved one will have during treatment. And even after successful treatment, there’s still the chance that cancer will come back – the cancer could have mastatized. There may be a new cancer somewhere else in the body which is now affecting other major organs. The American Cancer society mentions that there are lot of ideas out there to help with fear, manage the uncertainty and make a person feel more hopeful and they are:
■ “Learn what you can do to keep the person with cancer as healthy as possible, and learn about the services available to you. This can give you a greater sense of control.”
■ “Know that you don’t have control over some aspects of cancer. It helps to accept this rather than fight it.”
■ “Try to let go of your fears, but don’t deny them. It’s normal for these thoughts to enter your mind, but you don’t have to keep them there. Some people picture them floating away, or being vaporized. Others turn them over to a higher power to handle.”
■ “Express feelings of fear or uncertainty with a trusted friend or counselor. Being open and dealing with emotions helps many people feel less worried. People have found that when they express strong feelings, like fear, they’re better able to let go of these feelings.”:
■ “Use your energy to focus on wellness and what you can do now to stay as healthy as you can. Remember to take care of yourself, as well as the person with cancer.”
■ “Find ways to help yourself relax.”
■ “Make time for regular exercise, and be as active as you can.”
■ “Control what you can. Keeping your life as normal as possible and making changes in your lifestyle are just a few of the things you can control.”
You play an important role in the health of the person you are caring for, but you cannot control how they are doing physically or mentally. Be careful not to look at your loved one’s progress and good days as proof of your caregiving skills. If you do this, you’ll be more likely to blame yourself when they have bad days and setbacks. Uncertainties and highs and lows are part of dealing with cancer – no one, not even the best caregiver, can control them. Rember all of this work costs the caregivers’ time. It also can cost money. There are alot of factors and what people don’t realize is that a caregiver is suffering too along with their loved one who has cancer. They are always doing what needs to be done and the caregiver’s health can suffer too but often the caregiver just keeps doing what needs to be done and may suffer in silence. As a caregiver you have to learn how to adjust and place your own personal problems in the background. It is important to hold the needs of the cancer patient above your own.
The caring support given to a patient will fuel the energy to fight their deadly disease and help them drive you to help them fight through the difficult times. Caregiving for a cancer paitent is a 24 hour job that lasts through a lifetime, a month, or even weeks, but for a loved one, a caregiver wouldm’t have it any other way.
Alot of this information is provided from the American Cancer Society. If you have questions or need answers go to http://www.cancer.org.