Caregivers play a critical role in the overall success of a cancer patient’s journey. Many cancer survivors attribute their continued good health to the assistance of capable and caring helpers, usually family members or close friends. Some of the important roles of caregivers include:
Many cancer survivors enter treatment fully able to manage their own medications. Sometimes, however, the treatment can have an effect on their memory and ability to successfully take their medications. It is common for cancer patients to juggle multiple medications with complicated dosage schedules and requirements. Even under the best circumstances a large number of medications can be difficult to manage, so an additional person to watch and assist can make all the difference with successful medication management.
Communicating with the Health Care Team
Cancer patients who participate in clinical trials undergo many types of diagnostic tests (i.e., scans, eye exams, etc.) in order to monitor any side effects. Patients have multiple appointments and conversations with various types of health care professionals who each have their own language. It is essential that survivors and their caregivers understand the recommended treatment regimen and requirements so they can implement them properly at home. Likewise, it is important for the healthcare team to understand even small changes in the health status of the patient. Therefore, it is especially helpful to have a second person attending each appointment to ask pertinent questions, clarify and remember physician comments and communicate the patients’ needs. Input from a caregiver who understands the particular needs of the survivor leads to the best possible outcome. Keeping a diary of symptoms and a log of each appointment is an excellent tool, both for the survivor and the health care team.
Caring for the Cancer Survivor
It goes without saying that the most difficult challenge for the caregiver is the actual 24 hour care for the cancer survivor. The caregiver becomes the person who encourages the cancer survivor when the journey becomes too difficult for them to navigate alone. Help with meals, bathing, and pain management becomes critical. Caregivers must allow the healthcare team to support them as well as the patient. Do not hesitate to let the Mary Crowley team know when these functions are too challenging to perform alone. Remember there are others who can help!
Caring for Yourself
The people closest to the survivor must learn to manage the stress of caregiving by never forgetting to take care of themselves. This may mean small breaks from the everyday chores of caregiving. It may mean taking a moment to reflect on spiritual or inspirational readings that will provide refreshment in the midst of the journey. Allowing friends and family to take part in the joy of performing chores is also important. These breaks will boost mental and physical health and allow family members to deal with the stresses of caregiving.
Other Resources for Caregivers: