Someone has very rightly said, “An individual doesn’t get cancer - a family does.” The disease is not only physically and emotionally excruciating for the patient, but is also emotionally overwhelming for their near and dear ones. A person suffering from cancer as well as their caregivers goes through a similar surge of negative emotions. They are gripped with uncertainty, sadness, fear, anxiety, and helplessness. If these feelings are not addressed, both patients and caregivers can even sink into depression. A cancer diagnosis changes the lives of family members, friends, and colleagues, and no one knows what the future holds.
Most cancer patients nowadays prefer being cared for at home. Hospital stays are thus shorter and the treatments don’t require patients to stay for days on end. Today, people with cancer are living longer and fuller lives, and a lot is attributed to the caregivers at home. Caregivers may be spouses, children, parents, relatives, or even friends.
Being a Caregiver
Being a caregiver is not an easy role. It can be very stressful. It needs tremendous physical and emotional strength, courage, and positivity to be able to provide relief (of any kind) to the person who is suffering. Therefore, it is important for caregivers to be prepared to deal with a patient’s emotional response to the disease, because a lack of awareness can cause unwanted stress to the caregiver.
Often, caregivers are quite unsettled to find that the patient becomes physically or emotionally detached from his/her own family members. This can be painful to witness and experience, but it is important to recognise that this might be one of the side effects of chemotherapy. Another side effect is the expression of extreme negativity in a person. They might become incapable of expressing their emotions. At times, they might have an extreme reaction to the smallest of things. Among the many responsibilities, it is also important for you as a caregiver to be very patient and understanding of the physical and emotional pain that your loved one is going through.
Managing Your Emotions
When you watch your loved one suffer emotionally and physically, you might often neglect your own emotions. Managing your emotions as a caregiver to a cancer patient needs courage, especially if you are very attached to the person. It is easy to break down and feel anxious about what the future holds, but if such feelings are not managed in a healthy manner, it can only complicate your role as a caregiver, and can even affect the patient negatively. A person suffering from cancer needs to, above everything else, have hope that they can be cured. That strength of conviction comes primarily from you, the caregiver. So here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Things to Keep in Mind
Accept that your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. The earlier there is acceptance, the faster can the right course of action be taken for their treatment.
2. Understand The Disease
It is important to first know exactly what kind of cancer you are dealing with and at what stage it is at. As a caregiver, you should ask as many questions as required for you to understand what you need to do to provide the best care. Emotional support for cancer patients depends on the kind of cancer they have. For those who suffer from breast cancer - which is usually localised and curable, the support required will be different from that of a person whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body or is incurable. In the latter case, a caregiver’s role is a lot more challenging.
Talking to other caregivers, or joining support groups can provide a lot of emotional support. It is comforting to know that you are not alone in this battle, and that it can be overcome. If you have friends or colleagues who have been through or are in a similar situation, it is always a good idea to keep in touch with them and find out what they are doing to keep going. If you cannot find a local support group, find a good listener in your friend circle or among your extended family, who can simply listen to you. If that does not work, reach out to counsellors in your area, who might even give you ideas on how to release your stress or maintain your mental and emotional health.
4. Stress-release Techniques
You can look at alternative stress-management techniques like yoga, meditation, or any spiritual or healing modality that will make you feel more positive, and that will in turn help your loved one too.
5. Take Care of Your Needs
Don’t neglect yourself. Caregivers forget that they need care too. You should do whatever is required of you to take good care of your emotional, mental, and physical health. Do not neglect exercise and good nutrition. Eat regularly and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you find that it is difficult to make time for a work out, buy yourself a yoga mat and do Surya Namaskar or other exercises in your living room. If your emotional needs, like bonding with your children or parents are getting affected, talk about it frankly with all those who are concerned and get those needs met.
6. Take Help
When someone offers a helping hand, allow them to do so. Keep a list of certain to-do tasks, and if anyone is available to help you execute them, let them. Also, see if you can afford to hire additional help. Drivers, maids, cooks, or if needed, night or day nurses can really take a lot of pressure off. Depending on your budget, try to outsource some of your routine jobs to staff or helpful family members during this stressful time.
7. Be Patient With Yourself
You can make mistakes while taking care of the patient. It’s all right, and you don’t have to be hard on yourself. Give yourself time to get used to your role as a caregiver.
Good caregiving and being optimistic can be instrumental in even curing someone. Hence, the importance of caregiving cannot be understated.
A caregiver needs as much love and support from friends and family as a patient. It is one of the most stressful and challenging roles you can play. Be kind to yourself and be aware of your own efforts and hard work. It is much easier to be compassionate to someone else when you are compassionate to yourself, take care of all your needs and be in a positive state of mind.