Knowing and understanding the disease generally prepares one to manage things better. When your near one is diagnosed with cancer, initially it may be a denial phase for both of you, followed by acceptance. Accepting the facts is essential so that you can work towards taking care of the patient and his or her treatment.
Knowing About Cancer and its Treatment as a Cancer Caregiver
What to Expect
As a cancer caregiver, it will be helpful for you to understand the disease condition and more importantly the stage at which the disease was diagnosed, the various tests and investigations that are advised by the doctor. This is important because the stage of the disease determines the kind of treatment the doctor would recommend. Based on the prescribed treatment, hospital stay, number of visits, side-effects, expenses, etc. will be decided. At times, surgery may be recommended followed by chemotherapy or radiation or vice versa.
Chemotherapy includes administration of various medicines to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. Radiation also helps to kill the cancer cells. If either of these is given before surgery, its objective is to reduce the size of the tumor to make it operable. If given after surgery, it aims to eliminate residual cancer cells, if any. Some cancers may need multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation cycles.
Also, before each chemotherapy cycle, various laboratory investigations (diagnostic tests) may be required. This is important so that the doctor can decide whether the patient can tolerate the next chemotherapy cycle. If the results are unfavorable, the cycle may be postponed, and the patient may be kept under observation.
Sometimes the patient may have to be managed at the hospital after the treatment cycle is administered due to side effects of the anticancer medicines or radiation. Radiation or chemotherapy weakens the patient badly, and they need full-time care as well as motivation to carry on. As a cancer caregiver, it is vital to never lose hope even in sad moments.
How You Can Support Your Family Member with Cancer
Sometimes more than the diseased, you may feel the brunt of the treatment. Also, you may think that the initial cycles are taking a toll on the patient’s health. Do not get disappointed or lose hope. Do not hold the treatment. Your doctor is the expert who would give appropriate advice.
As a cancer caregiver, this what you need to remember:
- Since the patients undergoing cancer treatment suffer from fatigue and other severe side effects, they usually become irritable. Be patient with them, don’t get stressed because it will do no good to either of you.
- Understand the patient’s condition and try to remain calm.
- If the patient is conscious and responding, read their favorite book to them, play some soft music or let them watch some funny things on television.
- There could be certain diet restrictions, follow them as advised. You may also want to check if their favorite food is allowed, if yes try arranging the same.
- Whenever possible take them for a walk or around in a wheelchair so that they do not feel confined to their hospital bed or room. However, this should be as per the doctor’s advice as they have a risk of catching an infection easily and are advised against going in crowded places.
Self-help as a Cancer Caregiver: How Would You Help Yourself?
- Usually, a caregiver’s health is affected since they ignore themselves, stretching beyond the capacity to manage everything on their own. To take good care of the patient you need to be healthy. If possible, outsource the daily household chores.
- You need to eat well and stay fit. Take at least a 15-20 minutes break from all the work for yourself and relax. Ask for help or call over someone to take care of the patient for short periods so that you can take a break.
- Try to remain positive, hopeful and relaxed. Since the patient is already having a difficult situation looking at a sullen caregiver may further depress the patient.
- Talk to people around who are in similar situations and share your worries; you may find some comfort and feel a little relieved having discussed certain problems. Sometimes you may find some ideas which may help you deal with the patient’s side effects.
- Though it is easier said than done, maintain a positive attitude towards the treatment planned and explain the treatment process to the patient. Reassure that the doctor has offered the best advice and you two together with the rest of the family will make it work and get back to life.
Disclaimer: The above information has been prepared by a qualified medical professional and may not represent the practices followed universally. The suggestions listed in this article constitute relatively common advice given to patients, and since every patient is different, you are advised to consult your physician, if in doubt, before acting upon this information. Lupin Limited has only facilitated the distribution of this information to you in the interest of patient education and welfare.