Caring for a Loved One with Cancer

Published on December 01, 2020

Asian couple wife with cancer

Caring for a Loved One with Cancer

No one wants to see a loved one struggle with their health or side effects of cancer treatments. So, we do what comes naturally: We step up, step in and do everything in our power to ease the pain, struggle and burden of a loved one’s cancer journey.

“Cancer doesn’t just impact a patient. It impacts the entire family,” explains Lindsey Wise, oncology social worker at Shady Grove Adventist Aquilino Cancer Center. “Family caregivers are often thrown into this role very quickly. They have to learn the terminology, medication, treatments - all of those details.

“It really is a long marathon, and it’s okay to feel a range of emotions during it,” she adds.

The first thing she encourages family caregivers to do is take care of themselves.

‘Put your oxygen mask on first’

There’s a reason we hear this well-known analogy so often when it comes to taking care of ourselves. That’s because you cannot function – or be helpful to anyone – without first taking care of your own health and safety.

The National Alliance on Caregivers found that cancer caregivers spend an average of almost 33 hours each week caring for their loved one. Not to mention, many of these caregivers have additional responsibilities, which may include work, caring for other family members and basic household chores. That can be a lot for anyone.

“Take care of you own physical, mental and emotional needs,” encourages Lindsey. “You’ll be better able to support your loved one when you do, and your loved one will feel grateful you’re taking care of yourself.”

Lindsey’s advice to caregivers includes:

  • Eat healthy
  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Spend time on a hobby you enjoy

Ask for help

Another important piece of advice for cancer caregivers is to be okay asking for help.

“Sometimes, a caregiver may not want to ask for help because they don’t want to hurt their loved one’s feelings,” shares Lindsey. “But there are so many easy and great ways to find support, even during COVID-19.”

That support may include:

  • Connect with volunteers to help through Caring Matters
  • Order groceries online and have them delivered to your doorstep
  • Visit Imerman Angels to connects caregivers with other caregivers
  • Attend virtual support groups with other caregivers
  • Use Caring Bridge or MyLifeline to quickly and efficiently update family and friends and organize support such as meals, transportation and help with younger children.

“Accepting help can be very hard,” admits Lindsey. “Families think they can do it all on their own, but people want to help. There are many great apps to help keep it all organized. Even better, you can appoint someone to keep it all organized for you.”

A team approach to care

Your loved one’s cancer care team does more than provide care and support for them. They’re also there for you.

“I’ve met with family caregivers many times,” shares Lindsey. “Maybe the patient isn’t feeling well or the caregiver just needs an outlet.”

Other team members can be an important resource, too. Nurse navigators are key in helping schedule appointments, answer questions and coordinate care.

As a social worker, Lindsey can help connect you with whatever resources you need in the community. “All you have to do is to ask,” she encourages.

Learn more about the cancer care and support available at Adventist HealthCare.

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