Are you caring for a cancer patient? Being a caregiver, even if your relationship with the ill person is a loving and intimate one, can be difficult. We found several tips that could make your task less difficult:
Find out as much information as you can.. If you’re caring for a cancer patient, you need a calm head. He or she may be confused, frightened and unable to take in what’s being said. Visit the doctor with them to listen to instructions. Make sure you know about the diagnosis, the types of treatment available, the side-effects and how to handle them, and the names of support groups in your area. Note the questions you’d both like to ask your doctor, and keep his or her phone number at hand. For example, are there any tips for managing a particular side-effect, or does a special diet need to be followed during treatment?
Contact your medical aid as soon as possible to get all the relevant authorisations. If you do not have a medical aid, state hospitals generally provide very good treatment, although you’ll have to be prepared to wait in line until you’ve been admitted to a programme of treatment. If you need help with hospital bills, speak to a financial consultant in the hospital’s business office. He or she may help work out a monthly payment plan.
Be prepared for the physical aspects of caring for a cancer patient. They may request help with bathing, dressing, etc. Always ask before helping.
Brace yourself for rollercoaster emotions.. There’ll be days of tears or acceptance, highs or lows.
Listen. Really listen – without making false assurances or telling them to ‘look on the bright side’. If you’re caring for a cancer patient who is a loved one, look back on your times together. How have you comforted each other in the past? Go for a drive; watch a funny movie; share your memories.
Source local support groups. Your oncologist may recommend a group who understands your situation. Or call the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) on 0800226622.
Ask for help. Caring for a cancer patient, even if he or she is your most dearly beloved, can be rewarding and an honour. But there’ll be days when you feel trapped – you’re tired, stressed, depressed, overwhelmed with guilt at your own health, angry with the situation, and always worried. Friends and family are generally prepared to help but have no idea what to do. Put out an SOS for specific tasks: meals, caring for children, buying birthday presents, running errands, relieving you for an hour or two, or a compassionate ear.
Look after yourself. Don’t neglect your own needs. You don’t want caregiver burnout. Eat properly; exercise for 30 minutes a day; make sure you get sufficient sleep and nap when you can; and don’t miss your own medical check-ups.
Finally, don’t be hard on yourself. Caring for a cancer patient is probably new to you too. All you can promise is, as one carer said, ‘to say “Let me take your hand and we’ll walk through this valley together”.’
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At a loss for what to say to a friend with cancer? Read our earlier blog “Visiting a friend with cancer” for reassuring advice.[/message]