EDITOR’S NOTE: This content has been provided to Assisting Hands Home Care by Susan G. Komen New Jersey in honor of breast cancer awareness month and was originally published on their blog. We thought it contained valuable information and obtained permission to share it as a resource.
For many, caregiving can be a very fulfilling and rewarding experience; a role that can bring on a sense of accomplishment and pride. However, it can also be scary and overwhelming to have this responsibility that you were probably never trained or prepared to do.
Taking care of a loved one with breast cancer takes on many forms. There is not one defined role. The kind of support will be different for each person. Caregivers may be taking care of medical tasks, practical needs and day-to-day tasks, while offering physical, emotional, spiritual or financial support. It is important to point out that anyone who takes care of a patient can be considered a caregiver, including family, friends, neighbors; it doesn’t have to be just family.
In order to best care for someone else, you need to take care of yourself. If you are caring for a loved one undergoing breast cancer treatment, there is support you can turn to (in addition to home care, which provides personal care and assistance with activities of daily living for your loved one and respite care for you).
Below you’ll find some helpful tips and resources in order to be better-equipped as a caregiver.
Getting organized and staying organized is a task in itself. Whenever possible, ask for help and accept help that is offered. This isn’t always easy to do. There may be family and friends around you that want to help, but don’t know how. With the help of websites such as MyCancerCircle.net and LotsaHelpingHands.com, caregivers can coordinate with others and have people volunteer to help. Assistance can range from transportation to treatment, preparing meals and offering support.
Susan G. Komen offers the Questions to Ask Your Doctor Series with fifteen topic cards on a variety of breast cancer issues. Each card contains questions to discuss with your doctor and plenty of space to write down the answers. This helps lower the anxiety of not knowing what to ask and helps in the preparation of doctor visits.
Organize and file all paperwork in a way that makes sense to you. The paperwork can be related to health forms, insurance forms, medical records, and notebooks or journals. It may help to keep an updated calendar.
Connecting with Your Loved One Undergoing Treatment
One of the biggest gifts you can offer someone is to be present, listen without judgment and allow your loved one to openly share their feelings. Being there for them could be as simple as sitting with your loved one. Your loved one may want to talk about the diagnosis, or they may want to make conversation that doesn’t involve treatment.
Be supportive and respectful of their feelings and decisions. It is hard watching a loved one cope with a cancer diagnosis and it is okay to admit that you don’t know what to say or do. By starting this conversation, you can open doors to better communication and understanding. Has there ever been a time you helped each other deal with difficult situations in the past? Identify what you have done in the past and do what works best for the both of you.
Educate yourself on cancer and treatment to understand what your loved one is going through.
Find Support and Resources You Need
Caregivers often feel a sense of guilt seeking social support. There is nothing wrong with getting support, as caregiving can be a stressful job. It is important to know that there is support for caregivers. There are support groups, individual counseling and peer matching options. Many times the hospital where your loved one is receiving care will offer social support programs or know of them in the community.
The Susan G. Komen Breast Care Helpline is available for anyone affected by a diagnosis, and that includes caregivers. We receive many calls from caregivers that are looking for support, education and resources. Whether you need information, assistance, emotional support or just someone to talk to, we can help. All calls and emails are answered by trained and caring staff Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. EST. You can contact us at 1–877 GO KOMEN (1–877–465–6636) or firstname.lastname@example.org
CancerCare has professional oncology social workers who provide free emotional and practical support for people with cancer, caregivers and other loved ones. Many support services and educational materials are designed with caregivers in mind. You can go to www.cancercare.org or call 1–800–813-HOPE (4673) for more information.
Self-Care is Important
It is not uncommon for caregivers to feel fatigue, anxiety and stress. Incorporating self-care can help you manage these effects of caregiving, and make you better equipped to care for your loved one.
Sometimes caregivers feel like they do not have enough time for self-care. There are small things you can do every day to take care of yourself. Stay active, eat healthy, get enough sleep and keep up with your own medical appointments.
Acknowledge your emotional needs. Get support. Caregivers can easily feel isolated and overwhelmed, and it is important to find ways to share your own feelings and concerns with others. Find family and friends to open up to for support. Talk to a professional about your feelings and concerns. Seeking professional support from a counselor or social worker can assist you in finding better ways to manage and cope with your own worries.
Know that you are not alone. At Komen CSNJ, they are a support resource for those that need guidance, support and help. Visit their website at komencsnj.org for more information.
Written by Marissa Fors, LMSW | Susan G. Komen and CancerCare
With a service area of 21-counties throughout New Jersey, 75% of all funds raised by Komen New Jersey stays within the service area to fund breast health programs for people who would not otherwise have access to quality health care, while 25% of the funds raised supports research for the cure on a national level. According to Susan G. Komen’s latest community profile, New Jersey ranks:
- 3rd highest death rate among all U. S. states.
- 8th highest number of new cases among all U. S. states.
- 7,000 individuals will be diagnosed this year.
- 1,300 will die this year.
Source: 2015 Community Profile.