Your Role As A Multiple Myeloma Caregiver

The National Alliance for Caregiving (2009) has reported that 65.7 million caregivers in the U.S. currently provide care for chronically ill or disabled family members and friends. Many of them are myeloma cancer caregivers.

What is a Multiple Myeloma Caregiver?

A multiple myeloma caregiver is someone who provides some type of physical or emotional care for a loved one with myeloma cancer. Multiple myeloma caregivers can be spouses, children, siblings or friends. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving (2009), two-thirds of caregivers are women, typically in their late 40s or early 50s.

Adjusting to Your New Role as a Multiple Myeloma Caregiver

You may not feel prepared for your new role as a caregiver. You may feel ill-equipped to provide medical care and, at the same time, you may be dealing with your own grief over your loved one’s illness.

Many caregivers feel anxious, overwhelmed or even angry at the prospect of providing care for someone with cancer. These feelings are perfectly normal and you shouldn’t just put them aside. Emotional stress only adds to the burden of caregiving. Try working through your feelings in one or more of the following ways:

  • Educate yourself about myeloma cancer. Learning about myeloma cancer and what to expect as your loved one’s illness progresses can ease much of your anxiety about caregiving.
  • Share your feelings with someone you trust. Talking over your feelings with someone you trust can provide you with a much-needed emotional release. Avoid sharing your feelings with the patient’s friends or family members if you think they’ll misinterpret your uncertainties. Seek out an uninvolved friend or a professional counselor.
  • Join a multiple myeloma caregiver support group. Go online to find a support group for people who care for cancer patients. You can share your feelings and worries with people who understand and can offer firsthand advice on coping with your role, covering healthcare expenses and other concerns.

Avoiding Caregiver Stress, Burnout and Anxiety

According to the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania (2008), 85 percent of caregivers report that the satisfaction of caring for their loved one outweighs the challenges. Nevertheless, caregivers report higher levels of anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia than the general population.

You can protect yourself against caregiver stress, burnout and anxiety by asking for help from family members and friends so you have time to care for your own needs. Many caregivers feel ashamed and selfish asking for help, but seeking respite from round-the-clock responsibility is not selfish at all. Taking the time to look after yourself gives you renewed energy and motivation to be a better multiple myeloma caregiver for your loved one.

Resources

American Cancer Society. (2009). Caring for the patient with cancer at home: A guide for patients and families. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002818-pdf.pdf

International Myeloma Foundation. (2002). Now you are a caregiver. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://myeloma.org/IndexPage.action?tabId=1&menuId=0&indexPageId =39&parentLinkId=507&categoryId=0&gParentType=nugget&gParentId= 12&parentIndexPageId=5&parentCategoryId=29

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2010). Caregiver stress: Tips for taking care of yourself. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/caregiver-stress/MY01231

Myeloma Canada. (2010). Caregiver concerns. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://www.myelomacanada.ca/en/caregiver_concerns.htm

National Alliance for Caregiving. (2009). Caregiving in the U.S.: Executive summary. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://www.caregiving.org/data/CaregivingUSAllAgesExecSum.pdf

National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Pain control: Support for people with cancer. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/paincontrol/page1

Vachani, C. (2008). Did you know . . . the facts about caregivers? Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://www.oncolink.org/coping/article.cfm?c=1&s=39&ss=85&id=1027