Being a Caregiver
As a caregiver, your role in managing treatment and logistics for your
loved one is both admirable and important. The responsibilities you’re
assuming will include managing medications, communicating with your loved
one’s medical team, dealing with legal and financial issues and
handling any medical issues you may encounter. You will also be able to
help your loved one with
information about how to prepare for treatment – what to eat, how to dress, what to bring, etc.
Please remember that we are here to help you as well as your loved one
who is receiving treatment. A good start is taking our free
Cancer Basics class – specifically designed to answer your questions and provide
information about what to expect throughout the treatment process. We
hold several of these classes each month and encourage patients, family
members and caregivers to attend. Most cancer treatments don’t require
overnight hospital stays, so both you and your loved one should prepare for
Most cancer treatments don’t require overnight hospital stays, but
caregivers and family members who are actively involved in treatments
may find these tips helpful:
- Making arrangements to get to and from appointments
Packing some essentials for both the patient and caregiver to make the
day of treatment more comfortable:
- Something for entertainment, like a book or your phone, during the appointment
if the type of treatment allows
- Headphones if needed
- Tablet/laptop/phone chargers if needed
- Water and health team-approved snacks
- Travel-sized pillow to rest
- Extra sweater or blanket in case you get chilly
Many patients need help talking with care providers – sometimes because
of age, sometimes because of illness, and often because of information
overload. In these cases, you may step in to help listen, ask questions
and let the team know how the patient is doing.
Here are some simple steps that can help make conversations with healthcare
teams more effective:
- Try to keep thorough appointment notes from the start. Keeping a record
of what your loved one has been told can help you cut down on miscommunication,
and remember the steps the patient needs to take.
- Ask questions. We are here to help you and your loved one understand the
illness, treatment and side effects.
- Help your loved one write down questions for the doctor as they come to
mind, then bring them to appointments. (Expecting your loved one or even
yourself to remember them just creates stress!)
- Keep the same journal or notebook for notes during your loved one’s
appointment. This helps as both of you refer to questions, and saves you
and your loved one from having to stress about things you may forget.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself as well as the patient. This
often gets overlooked, especially when you focus on someone else’s
health, but try to remember that your well-being is essential, too.
- Physically – By going to your own checkups, take any prescribed medications
you’re on, eating healthy meals, getting enough rest, exercising
and making time to relax, you are doing yourself and your loved one a favor.
Mentally – Understand your feelings. It’s common to feel stressed
and overwhelmed at this time. Like your loved one, you may feel angry,
sad, or worried. Try to share your feelings with others who can help you –
a counselor, chaplain or social worker.
- Share responsibilities. You may be your loved one’s primary caregiver,
but you will need a break at some point. Take a look at how busy you are
now, be honest with yourself about what you can do, think about tasks
you can give to others, and let go of tasks that aren’t as important
Your loved one’s
patient navigator is another resource we have available for you.
reach out at any time – the cancer journey is long and has many steps, but
you are not alone in caring for your loved one.