When your loved one is diagnosed with cancer, your first reaction may be one of grief and disbelief, but don’t lose hope, there’s always a chance of survival. What’s important is that you, as someone close to the patient, stay positive and do your best to care for them.
Cancer takes a massive physical, emotional, mental and spiritual toll on patients. The first thing you should do is to educate yourself on the type of cancer that your family member has, and what are the possible treatments. Not all cancer diagnoses are fatal and some may even have a good prognosis, especially if the cancer is caught early. Knowing what to expect will help you prepare for the effects of cancer and cancer treatments.
Cancer treatments require the patient to be in and out of the hospital frequently. You should have access to reliable transport like a car. If you don’t have a car, you should take a cab. Using public transport is not advisable as the patient may feel weak after treatment.
It’s important to listen to the medical team treating your family member. You should be in constant communication with them to better understand the patient’s needs. The medical team will tell you exactly when the patient needs to take their medication, as well as the food they can or cannot have. It’s important to make sure your family member continues to take their medication unless their doctor says it’s okay to stop. If your loved one has been involved in any less than healthy habits such as smoking, or constant drinking, you should ensure that they stop completely.
If the person under your care is a child, don’t omit the truth. Try to explain in the simplest terms about what is happening to them, and what steps the both of you will take to overcome it. Communication and trust between the patient and caregiver is very important no matter the age of the patient.
When a patient is hospitalised for cancer treatment, it can get lonely in the ward. You can drop by with their favourite books, music, or crafts to help them cope. Having something to do will lessen their sense of boredom and give them a sense of purpose.
Treatments like surgery or chemotherapy often leave the patient feeling fatigued and listless. When you’re a caregiver for your family member, one of the most important things to provide is the emotional and mental support for them to go through with the treatment. They might feel like it’s not worth it to continue trying. Constant reassurance from you and the other members of the family is very important so that they don’t lose hope.
Besides treatment, the disease itself, may also leave them feeling too tired to get up and do the most basic tasks. Steps will need to be taken to accommodate their lack of energy. You will have to take over basic tasks such as paying the bills, cleaning the house, or buying groceries.
Home care becomes quite difficult when your family member becomes tired easily. You will need to look into buying aids such as a wheelchair, ramps, sliding sheets, handrails, special bedding or bathing aids. This will make it easier to take care of them while giving them some independence.
The pain of cancer and treatment can be hard to bear. Complementary alternative cancer treatments like massage therapy or acupuncture may be able to help your family member cope. If your family member wants to try these alternative treatments, you should allow them to do so after consulting the medical team in charge of your loved one’s case.
Your family member might want to stay at home all the time, but human interaction and support is crucial for their wellbeing. You can encourage them to go out and talk to other cancer survivors, or participate in new activities. Even if they do not want to talk, going outside to enjoy the sun or get some exercise can do wonders for their health.
You may not be the one who’s ill right now, but it is also important for you to take care of yourself. Do not neglect your own physical and emotional needs. If you, the caregiver, should fall sick, then the family under your care will suffer as well. Caring for family with cancer is a tough and sometimes frustrating job, but it need not be a lonely road. Get to know the various support groups available, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.