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.
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 that was specifically designed to answer your questions and provide
you with 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.
Here are a few essential tips for caregivers to remember:
Most cancer treatments don’t require overnight hospital stays, so
both you and your loved one should prepare for:
- Driving to and from appointments
- Having something for entertainment, like a book or your phone, during the
appointment if the patient’s type of treatment allows
- 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. In these cases, you may step in
to help listen, ask questions and let the team know how the patient is
doing. Some simple steps you can take to make these conversations as effective
as possible are:
- Try to keep thorough appointment notes from the start. Keeping a record
of what you’ve been told can help you cut down on miscommunication
and remember what you need to do.
- Ask questions. We are here to help you understand the illness, treatment
and side effects.
- Write down questions for the doctor as you think of them and bring them
to your appointments. Expecting yourself to remember them will add to
- Keeping the same journal or notebook for notes during the appointment will
help you refer to questions and save you from having to stress about things
you may forget.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. This often gets overlooked,
especially when you focus on someone else’s health, but try to remember
that your well-being is essential
- Keep yourself healthy. 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.
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.
Please 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.