Hearing a cancer diagnosis can be difficult for everyone involved, the patient, their family, and friends. A cancer diagnosis can turn the world upside down, shaking the patient to the core.
Cancer survivors need time to accept the new reality, which is never easy. Usually, in addition to cancer treatment, patients get mental health support from the health system; however, more frequently than ever, the loved ones are left to deal with a new reality alone.
Studies have reported that the mental health burden is felt much more by the caregiver than the patient, especially as they feel ill-prepared or as the disease advances.
So, how can you find the right words to let the cancer patient’s family know that you are there for them?
Being a caregiver for a family member who is going through the cancer journey, can be challenging, and stress can become a part of the caretaker’s daily life.
Feeling stress when one catches oneself unable to meet the needs or expectations of someone going through their cancer journey, is absolutely natural. So don’t leave them alone with this reality. It is worth remembering, that to someone with a cancer diagnosis, caregivers are their significant others, who are vital and instrumental in helping them to manage day-to-day life, and usually someone who is playing a vital role in their care.
Realizing the meaning and importance of your role in your loved one’s life during their cancer journey, take a breath and make arrangements for your circle of support: find people who could provide you with a safe space to talk about your feelings. It can be either your broader family, friends, or patient organizations.
Carers Do Need Care Too
This is one of the most important messages to you as a caregiver or if your family member or friend is taking care of a cancer patient.
If you experience stress for a prolonged period of time, it can result in burnout which can eventually affect your sleep and physical and mental health. To support caregivers, one can offer to care for the cancer patient so they can have time for themselves.
Let them know that you are there for them by providing caretakers with a safe space to talk about their feelings. Inquire about what has been helpful in the past to go through difficult times and see if they can replicate those actions.
It is common for caregivers to feel a wide range of feelings/emotions, such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, fear and uncertainty, loneliness and isolation, anger, or suffering from sleep problems and substance abuse.
After inquiring about what they might need, look for available support groups in the area (in-person or online).
Read more about potential challenges experienced by the caregivers, so you can better identify the best ways to support them.
Sometimes, caregivers may need some encouragement and feel understood. To empower them, you might use these inspirational quotes collected from cancer survivors and caregivers.
Individuals who care for cancer survivors usually forget to care for themselves. Being unable to eat well may eventually result in a reduced immune system, making them and cancer patients more vulnerable to sickness.
In order to provide practical support, cook or bring easy-to-prepare meals or order dinner for the caregiver and cancer survivor.
Also, ensure that they are taking care of their own healthcare needs, which are usually neglected. Assist them with errands and other tasks. Finally, encourage caretakers to get enough rest and exercise at least 15-30 min a day. This may assist with reducing stress and finding time for themselves.
Remember that someone who has a family member going through a cancer journey may feel like their roles have changed after a cancer diagnosis. The best positive message you could offer the caretakers is by listening to their needs, whether they need to talk or require some type of assistance, e.g. with buying groceries.
While thinking of ways to support such families, remember to care for yourself and allow time to process the new experience yourself. Always be there to keep hope and a positive attitude for these families.