“God gave burdens, he also gave shoulders,” old Yiddish proverb.
The diagnosis that a family member or friend has cancer can be devastating. Cancer affects not only the patient, but also the immediate family and friends and being a caregiver for a cancer patient can be a life changing experience. The caregiver has to shoulder responsibilities ranging from helping with the normal routine, looking for appropriate healthcare services and resources, having knowledge about breast cancer, coordinating medical care, accompanying the patient to hospital for treatment. The non-tangibles of taking care of someone with breast cancer includes giving time, talking and listening to the patient, showing empathy and giving love.
Advice for Cancer Caregivers: Breast Cancer Awareness is Important
Caring for breast cancer patients at home can be a physically, emotionally and financially challenging experience. A primary reason for cancer patient caregiver stress is because caregivers usually forget to look after themselves in their effort to look after the patient.
Here are 10 Tips for Caregivers of Breast Cancer Patients
The first piece of advice for cancer caregivers is to remember that you are part of a team. A strong, efficient and well trained team, comprising of doctors, nurses, and associated healthcare professionals. Do not hesitate to tap into their professional acumen to seek any kind of help or guidance that you need while you are caring for breast cancer patients at home.
When taking care of someone with cancer, organise all the paperwork so that it is easy to find and is up to date. Medical records and documents, prescriptions, all kinds of investigations, legal documents, insurance related documents, and any other paperwork that you feel is necessary needs to be filed.
Learn About Signs And Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Educate yourself as knowledge is power. As a cancer caregiver you may not fully understand the complexities of cancer diagnosis and breast cancer treatment and you are not expected to. But caring for someone with cancer is easier if you understand the diagnosis, treatment options and expected side effects.
The New Normal?
There will be days when things will be rough, accept them. But at the same time, try to retain as much of the ‘old’ routine as possible. Watching a TV show, going to the mall or meeting friends (if your loved one is up to it), eating dinner as a family, and activities from before the diagnosis can help take everyone’s’ minds off the illness, even if it is for a while.
Ask For Help
This piece of advice for cancer caregivers may not feel right. But taking care of someone with cancer is tough. Your loved one may resist being taken care of by someone apart from you. So seek the help of family and friends for other kinds of help like driving the two of you around, doing chores like babysitting, weekly shopping, and other ancillary tasks.
Stress Management Techniques
Being a caregiver for a cancer patient will see you facing new challenges every day. Explore stress management techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, etc. Even if you haven’t practiced them before, it is okay to seek professional help now, and learn a technique that works for you. Managing your stress will only make you a better and more efficient breast cancer patient caregiver. Exercise is a well-proven way to manage stress.
Cancer patient caregiver’s stress can be reduced if the caregiver invests in and looks after his or her own health. If as a caregiver, you are not 100% fit, you will not be able to look after your patient as well as you would want to. Take care of yourself, to stay strong for your loved one.
Uncertainty looms large in the lives of cancer patients and their caregivers. Planning may be difficult, but it helps. Make short term plans like celebrating the end of a kind or phase of treatment; it will give you and your patient something to look forward to. While planning for the long term may be difficult, do try and get the necessary legal documentation in order.
Take short breaks from caregiving. A small nap, a coffee with a friend, a walk or run, exploring your spiritual side, prayers, meditation are all activities that will restore your energy levels, while lowering stress. Taking time out is not selfish, in fact it is essential for the caregiver. A rejuvenated ‘you’ will be able to look after your loved one better.
Accept Your Limitations
Caregiving is full time work. No one can do everything. The important thing to remember is that your loved one needs you. So do the best you can, without burning yourself out. Ask and accept help when and where you think you cannot cope.
Apart from these tips and advice for cancer caregivers, do explore various online forums for breast cancer support groups such as Help for Cancer Caregiver or Cancer Survivors Network and offline forums and NGOs which provide help for caregivers of cancer patients. These groups not only provide support for cancer patient caregivers, they can also be a trusted resource for advise and help.