Cervical Cancer Caregivers

More than 1.3 million cases of cancer are diagnosed each year. According to the Journal of Family Nursing, at least 50 percent of those cancer patients are cared for by a loved one or someone in their immediate family.

What Do Cancer Caregivers Do?

Depending on the severity of the patient’s cancer, caregivers prepare meals, give medication, talk to doctors or other health care providers, provide transportation and basically attend to any and all of the patient’s needs.

Over one-third of cancer caregivers spend at least 40 hours a week taking care of their friend or relative with cancer.

Best Advice for Cancer Caregivers

Join a support group yourself! Many assume support groups are only for cancer patients, but the toll on caregivers for a cancer patient can be enormous. Studies have found that 62 percent of caregivers reported their own health has suffered and that they’ve experienced feelings of depression and isolation. A whopping 85 percent come to resent having to provide care, and 46 percent stated they didn’t have adequate financial resources to give such constant care.

Belonging to a support group specifically for caregivers can help alleviate the stress and offer much needed emotional support. It may also help you become a better caregiver as a result, in addition to saving your own sanity, so it’s certainly worth the time.

Tips for Cancer Caregivers

  • Get involved with the medical team and keep yourself informed.
  • Have therapy sessions with trained nurses – research has shown that patients and caregivers who do this cope better. But it can be costly, so research free support programs and the most cost effective ways to get this level of support.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for support. It’s okay for you to lean on someone too during this difficult time.
  • Take some time for yourself: This is essential if you don’t want to resent the cancer patient. Get a massage, manicure, go to a movie or play a game of golf, as long as it’s something fun for you.
  • Get enough sleep! This can make a huge difference in your attitude and your own health.
  • Keep a journal: It can be an invaluable tool in working through your own stress and pain, especially when caring for a loved one.
  • Look for humor whenever possible and try to keep a positive attitude. It’s easier said than done, but it can help you and the cancer patient too.

Tips for Talking to Doctors

An important part of being a caregiver is talking to the patient’s health care practitioners. Here are some helpful tips to make that time more effective.

  • Do your own research: Use the Internet, contact cancer organizations and ask questions at support groups. There’s a lot of information out there, and the better informed you are the better you can manage the patient’s care.
  • Find out your options: There are a lot of treatment options available these days, and it’s good to know what they are so you can discuss them intelligently with medical staff.
  • Keep telephone numbers handy so you can always reach the doctor. Make sure to know what number to call after hours in case of emergency.
  • Listen to your gut instincts.
  • Make a list of all the medications the patient needs and when/how they’re administered.
  • Never be afraid to ask questions. You have a right to know.
  • Take notes or record sessions so you have the information at your fingertips and don’t have to ask the same questions repeatedly.

Overall

Don’t feel guilty about asking for help. Allow other friends or family members to do things for you. You’re only one person and you can only do so much. If you burn out, then you won’t be any help to the cancer patient or yourself.

Most caregivers, in particular those caring for loved ones, suffer in silence. This isn’t healthy. Cancer affects more people than just the one afflicted with the disease. You need your own emotional support and outlet too. So ask for help and take time for yourself, or you may succumb to the severe psychological stress many cancer caregivers suffer.

Resources

Strength for Caring (n.d.). Cancer Caregivers. Retrieved July 2, 2007, from the Strength for Caring Web site: http://www.strengthforcaring.com/manual/about-you-you-are-not-alone/cancer-caregivers/.

Szabo, Liz (November 20, 2006). Cancer Hurts Caregivers, Too. USA Today. Retrieved July 2, 2007, from the USA Today Web site: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-11-19-cancer-caregivers_x.htm.

Caregivers 4 Cancer (n.d.). Did you know? Retrieved July 2, 2007, from the Caregivers 4 Cancer Web site: http://www.caregivers4cancer.com/.

By My Side (n.d.). Connecting with Others. Retrieved July 2, 2007, from the By My Side Web site: http://www.bymyside.com/caregiver/connect.jsp.