When someone we care about is diagnosed with a chronic or disabling condition, family members, loved ones and even friends may become caregivers. At Coastal Cancer Center, we understand how essential caregivers are to our patients and stand strong behind the support they provide.
From initial diagnosis to treatment and recovery, the caregiver role requires encouragement, understanding, patience and energy. If this is your first time stepping into the role of a caregiver, rest assured these tips will help you provide the critical care and support your loved one needs during this time.
What are some important roles as a caregiver?
Caregivers often act as the primary support system for patients, providing critical help for patients on a day-to-day basis. Those tasks include, but are not limited to:
- Coordinating appointments
- Providing transportation to-and-from appointments
- Enhancing communication between the patient and Coastal Cancer Center’s care team
- Understanding and following-through with medical decisions
- Performing common chores such as cleaning, grocery shopping, running errands
- Helping to prepare healthy meal options
- Assisting in bathing, grooming and dressing
- Monitoring medicine intake and side-effects of treatment regimen
- Becoming a treatment buddy
Staying Organized From Day One
Staying organized and informed from the time of diagnosis is critical to alleviating any unnecessary stress and confusion. Learning you have cancer or a blood disorder is overwhelming and we want to make sure your journey through treatment and recovery is as smooth and simple as possible.
Be prepared to receive a large amount of information about your loved one’s diagnosis from our care team. We strongly believe an informed caregiver is an empowered caregiver. The American Cancer Society recommends designating a notebook or creating a filing system to help organize important information you’ll often reference, such as:
- Diagnosis and treatment documentation
- Medicine information
- Lab results
- Coastal Cancer Center’s Patient Portal information
- Appointment notes and reminders
- Insurance and billing information
- Emergency contacts and numbers
- Local support group information
- Questions and answers from your Coastal Cancer Care team
Keeping a small calendar on hand can also make it easier to schedule upcoming appointments, scans and lab work without delay.
Providing Emotional Support
Standing strong beside a loved one through cancer is an emotional roller coaster – but remember you are not alone. Fighting the battle against cancer is a major undertaking for any patient. Staying positive can dramatically affect their emotional well-being and influence the outlook on their diagnosis and treatment regimen.
Providing emotional support can be as simple as lending an open ear for your loved one to share their feelings, fears and concerns.
Acting as a Long-Distance Caregiver
What can you do to help a family or friend battling cancer who does not live close to you? It’s a stark reality for many living in transient communities along the Coastal Carolinas. Stepping in as a long distance caregiver presents a unique array of challenges, but is possible even from miles away.
Below are recommendations from the American Cancer Society on how to take an active role in your loved one’s care and day-to-day life:
- Be a “point-of-contact person” – updating other family and friends on the health of your loved one throughout the treatment process.
- Offer to assist in diagnosis and treatment research
- When you visit the patient check the house for safety issues like cluttered walkways, loose rugs, or bad lighting. Maybe grab bars in the bathroom or a shower seat would be helpful. Help to make improvements or arrange for someone else to do so.
- Is the house clean? Is the yard cared for? Is there food in the house? Arranging help for chores like these can be a big help to the person with cancer.
- Get in touch with people who live near the person with cancer. This may be other family members, friends, neighbors, or the doctor. Call them. And make sure they know how to reach you.
- Plan for a crisis. Who can you count on to check on them any time, day or night?
- Keep a list of all the medicines and treatments the patient is getting (include doses and schedules), and update it regularly.
- Make sure the person with cancer can reach you and others who help with care. This might mean buying a cell phone for your loved one or arranging for a long distance plan on their land line phone. You can also program important numbers into the phones. This can serve as a phone number directory and help with speed dialing.
- Keep a local phone book that covers the person with cancer’s area. This way you’ll know what resources are available and can contact them if needed.
- Set up a Web site that lets people sign up for different jobs or tasks.
Remember: Being a caregiver means not only taking care of someone else, but taking care of yourself too! If you are a caregiver of a current patient who has authorized you to speak on their behalf, Coastal Cancer Center’s team is here for you. If you have any questions or concerns, our nurse navigator and patient representatives are here to support you in this important role.
For additional resources on serving as a caregiver, please visit the following links:
American Cancer Society
Learn what to expect as the caregiver of a loved one recently diagnosed with cancer. Information includes tips on how to talk with a loved one who has cancer, how to explain a cancer diagnosis to children and how to cope as a caregiver.
Understanding a loved one’s diagnosis is the first step to becoming an effective caregiver to a loved one with cancer. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network provides useful information on life with cancer and life after cancer.
The National Cancer Institute’s “Coping with Cancer” provides valuable information on support for patients, caregivers, family and friends affected by cancer. Online support includes how to help a loved one through treatment, support for caregivers, and guides on effective communication through cancer care.
Coping with cancer, relationships and cancer, emotional and physical matters and end-of-life care are all topics discussed in detail on Cancer.net.
CancerCare.org provides an array of online help for caregivers and loved ones of those diagnosed with cancer – ranging from online support groups, printable booklets and cancer communication tools.
Caring Bridge aims to provide people with cancer the opportunity to create their own webpage in an effort to keep family and friends updated on their health status.
This website is for women with cancer, providing information regarding makeup techniques and appearance improvements during treatment. Information on local workshops can be found here or by calling 1-800-227-2345.
Sources: The American Cancer Society, Cancer.net