Like the supporting actor in a movie, the caregiver of a cancer patient also plays a major role in all phases of cancer treatment. However, unlike the trained actor, the caregiver is dropped on the set without a script to follow. Caregivers must quickly learn to manage medicines and side effects, monitor fluid intake and blood pressure, and organize the schedule to include the doctor appointments while maintaining all other previous work and family responsibilities.
Caregivers are rarely spotlighted, but every cancer patient will tell you their caregiver(s) have immeasurable . No amount can be put on the sacrifice of time and energy involved in caretaking. But caretakers need some TLC as well, so here are some tips for caregivers from other caregivers and CancerCare:
» Acknowledge your feelings. Expect to feel a range of emotions, and try not to judge yourself for having them. Caregivers often feel the need to put on a happy face, but it is important to talk about some of your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust such as a friend, pastor or counselor.
» Accept the new circumstance. Things won't be normal anymore, but in time, there will be a new normal. Here is an excerpt from "In Time," a poem by caregiver Nancy D. McCabe:
"In time you will know that it is not over
But simply changed its form;
You'll see instead of the stone you carry
A beautiful jewel is born."
» Become informed. Learn about the diagnosis and treatment. Information will give you a sense of what to expect. Seek out other health professionals such as the social worker or patient navigator for more information or other .
» Adjust your expectations. You won't be able to do it all. Decide which of your loved one's needs you can or want to meet on your own. Seek help for the other needs. Only a few people may be able to help, but these individuals can make a big impact.
» Join a support group for caregivers. Finding out that someone else has the same struggles will help you feel more connected. Group members also share tips and resources they've learned along the way. CancerCare offers free professionally led face-to-face, telephone and online support groups for caregivers. Miles Perret Cancer Services also has a monthly support group for caregivers.
» Take care of yourself. Caregivers often feel guilty for leaving the patient. By taking care of yourself, you can take care of your loved one in a more energized way. Here are few simple ways to relax from caregiving: , listening to music, taking a walk around the block, meditating or praying, soaking in a hot bath, watching televison or enjoying a nap.
» Establish new traditions. On special occasions or holidays, you may have to talk to family members and friends about trading traditional roles. You may not be able to do things others have come to expect such as hosting the party or baking a certain dish.
» Celebrate strengths. Many discover courage, strength, and teamwork they didn't know they had. Build on those strengths.
At Miles Perret Cancer Services, we are here to help those fighting, surviving, and living with cancer, including caregivers. We are especially excited to honor caregivers at our upcoming event, Games of Acadiana, on Saturday, August 18th at the Cajundome & Convention Center. There is no admission fee, so we hope you'll join us for this unique, family-centered event. If you have any cancer related questions, please email email@example.com