Cancer caregiving: 3 ways to prepare for the role


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Any cancer diagnosis is an incredibly difficult time for the patient and her family and friends. If your loved one has been diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer, there's a real likelihood that they may need in-home care in the future. Cancer caregivers bear a unique burden in that they wear many hats. They serve as nurse, caregiver, housekeeper, cook, confidante and friend. It can be a strenuous role that comes with a laundry list of responsibilities.

With that said, here are a few ways to prepare to play the role of caregiver for your loved one.

Educate yourself on the condition.

The very best thing a caregiver can do to prepare for the key role they're about to play in their loved one’s life is to know everything they possibly can about the stage of the condition. Aspects that are most important to know ahead of time are:

  • Symptoms and prognosis of the diagnosed condition, so you'll be able to tell whether symptoms are worsening or plateauing. This way you'll know what's important to tell doctors during checkups and you can look out for any red flags, so to speak. Each case will have its own unique array of symptoms that'll change and evolve over time. Mesothelioma centers can help with the respiratory cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Other forms of cancer resources also are available for providing guidance for patients and caregivers alike. 
  • Side effects of treatments and prescribed drugs (and ways to cope with them), as well as how to tell which side effects are normal and which ones are worrisome
  • Insurance benefits and best practices when it comes to filing claims, as well as any specific benefits regarding life insurance policies and the legalities of each
  • Resources for more information on specific cancers and trends in research



Don't forget to take care of yourself.

Cancer caregivers should be aware of the resources that exist to offer relief. Take advantage of support groups in your area, and make it a point to make time for yourself. As the National Cancer Institute states, "You need to learn ways to take care of yourself. Because if you're not taking care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for help."

Stress and burnout are among the biggest concerns when it comes to caregivers of cancer patients. Some things you can do to prevent them from affecting you are:

  • Eating right to prevent stress naturally. Some foods that have been known to help with this endeavor are turkey, spinach, salmon, nuts, oatmeal, whole grains, sweet potatoes and citrus fruits.
  • Exercise regularly to increase the amount of endorphins your body produces. This promotes a positive outlook and healthy mood regulation, which helps you better cope with stress.
  • Embrace social interaction to give yourself a break from your routine — a chance to step back and see the big picture and appreciate your situation more.
  • Employ a respite caregiver who is qualified to care for your loved one, but also understands your personal goals and methods of care, as well as understanding your loved one's individual needs emotional and physical needs.



Learn to problem-solve.

As a cancer caregiver, you'll be presented with a lot of problems, from health-related issues and financial hurdles, to household and personal issues. In order to make it through this, you'll need to learn to develop a "can do" attitude as a way to manage these inevitable problems.

Keeping a positive attitude will help you focus on solutions to the problems as opposed to dwelling on the negative. Negativity is poisonous, and it can creep in unnoticed. Before you know it, it'll ruin everything you've worked hard to establish.

As a primary caregiver for a loved one who is battling cancer, your job will continually evolve to meet the needs of the patient in question. Knowing what to expect ahead of the time will help you prepare for the responsibility that comes with the role.