Caring for someone with cancer: Beginners Guide

Discovering a loved one has cancer is overwhelming but many people do find personal satisfaction in caring for that person. It may feel good to be able to help and give you some sort of control over cancer.  Below are tasks that you may need to do to support your loved one. Preparing and knowing what you need to do will help you mentally. 

What does a caregiver do?

  • Attending appointments and arranging schedules.
  • Being a Nurse - Taking care of the patient’s physical needs.
  • A Counsellor - Providing emotional support.
  • Household manager, dealing with meals, laundry, paying bills and caring for children and pets. 
  • Wage earner.
  • Talking to other people on their behalf, such as health and social care professionals.

Caregiving can bring you closer to your loved one and strengthen your relationship. In the beginning, you may feel alone and unprepared for this new role. Yet, along the way, you may find forgiveness, strength, compassion and courage through caregiving. 

Things to know when becoming a caregiver

Educate Yourself Learn as much as possible about the cancer, the treatment and possible side effects. The more you know about the disease and what to expect, the more confident you and your loved one will feel. 
Call for a Family Meeting  Caregivers can become overwhelmed with the responsibilities. Splitting up the tasks between family and friends can be a huge help. 
Keep all Information  Keep all letters and any medical records in a folder. This can come in handy when trying to verify information or looking for additional benefits. 
 Stay Organised 
Keep a record of medications, appointments, physician names and contact information. It also helps to make a list of your daily responsibilities and prioritise what needs to be done.
Write down any  symptoms
Tell the doctor about any new symptoms they exhibit, such as changes in sleep, mood, bowel habits or appetite. This will help show how treatment is affecting the body and if anything is a concern.    
Know your Limitations
You may be struggling to balance your caregiving duties with your full-time job and other responsibilities. Make a list and prioritise what needs to be done and ask family and friends, who can do each job. Or look into the family medical leave policies at your workplace. 
Take a Break from Cancer Having a break can make your relationship stronger and improve mental health for the both of you. This can be something simple like watching a film, baking or a gentle walk. 
Accept the Bad Days 
Some day's your loved one may be depressed or angry. It's unrealistic for someone to stay positive 24/7, so important to remember they may need space sometimes. Never take it personally. 
Stay Connected  Online caregiver groups may give you the extra support you need. People share their stories, which can help solve any problems you may have. 
Plan Things you Enjoy  Taking time out for yourself can make you a better caregiver. For example, an activity that gives a sense of accomplishment is greatly beneficial to your mental health. Try exercising, or finishing off a project. 
Mood Swings Don't beat yourself up about mood swings. They're normal and you are not alone. 

 

Even though it can be rewarding, the extra tasks of being a caregiver can have an impact on your own health. Too often caregivers put their own needs aside to focus on their loved one. None of this is easy. There will be times when you know you’ve done well, and times when you just want to give up. This is normal. But if it becomes a constant problem, you may need to see a mental health professional.

If you are struggling read our blog: 'CAREGIVER BURNOUT: SELF CARE HELP'