Advice for Caregivers and Family
Living with breast cancer presents many challenges, not only for the person diagnosed with cancer but also for their caregivers and family. Here are some helpful tips on how to support a loved one with breast cancer:
Get a full understanding of the situation
In the wake of a cancer diagnosis there’s a lot of information to process. Help your loved one have a complete understanding of what’s going on to make informed decisions by being informed yourself. Feel free to ask the doctor, oncologist and cancer care team questions if you’re accompanying your loved one to an appointment.
Communicate with your loved one
Share your feelings and encourage your loved one to freely share her feelings to gauge how she is coping. You don’t have to offer solutions or opinions – just be a caring listener. Look out for signs of depression to determine if professional counselling may be required.
Respect your loved one’s decisions
If you’re a spouse or partner, you may be in a position to share in the decision-making process, but decisions about life and care would ultimately be up to your loved one. Support your loved one’s decisions and discuss how you can be involved throughout the treatment.
Be prepared for changes in your loved one’s mood or behaviour
Stress, discomfort, medication and side-effects from breast cancer treatment may alter your loved one’s mood or behaviour. Your loved one may become depressed or angry. Be understanding about these changes and give her “space” for emotional ups and downs. Understand that your loved one will have good days and bad days. Support your loved one through this emotional time by finding ways to alleviate the stress and discomfort she may be experiencing.
Encourage your loved on to be active and independent
Your loved one may feel incredibly low especially during breast cancer treatment. The side-effects of breast cancer treatment such as fatigue, discomfort and limited arm movement (if your loved one had breast cancer surgery) would impair your loved ones physical abilities caused her to rely on others for the simplest task. This trying time may also cause your loved one to feel helpless and lose their self-confidence. Help your loved one regain a sense of self-confidence and self-reliance by encouraging them to be active and independent.
Help your loved one to feel good
Your loved one may feel self-conscious about the physical changes caused by breast cancer treatment such as hair loss and dry, itchy skin. Encourage your loved one to explore options for coping with physical changes and try different solutions until she feels comfortable. Can-Care conducts the Look Good Feel Better Program , a non-medical, public service program specially designed to support women undergoing cancer treatment to manage the psychological and physical side effects of chemotherapy, radiation or other forms of treatment.
The importance of caregiver
Being a caregiver means you’re the lifeline of the person with cancer. It can often be a difficult, emotionally draining and tiring task; therefore it’s equally important to take good care of yourself. Here are some helpful tips on how to take care of yourself so that you’re always in the best shape, physically and emotionally, to care for your loved one:
Accept the limitations of your loved one. Fatigue, stress and other side-effects of breast cancer treatment may be physically taxing for your loved one. She may not be able to do very much when she is experiencing the side-effects of breast cancer treatment. Accept your own limitations that you simply can’t do it all on your own and ask for help when you need it.
Try to keep some normalcy
Find some normalcy in both your lives by continuing to do the things you and your loved one enjoyed doing together before breast cancer. It can be something as simple as watching a home movie or your favourite television show together. If your loved one is feeling up to it, get out of the house to visit family and friends or perhaps to the cinema or your favourite restaurant – anything that will take both your minds off the illness even if it’s only for a while.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Don’t hesitate to ask friends and family for help. Your loved one may not want to be directly cared for by others, but friends and family can play a vital role in providing assistance in other everyday tasks such as running errands, cooking, cleaning, babysitting, or providing transportation.
Look after yourself
To be a good caregiver, you need to take good care of yourself too. Make sure you take breaks, eat on time, and get enough sleep. It is hard to offer much help if you’re feeling exhausted, so make sure you’re well rested each day. Exercising regularly, even if it’s for 10 minutes will help keep you energised and pumping with those much needed endorphins. It’s also important to look after your own emotional health too. Many caregivers may experience depression or anxiety due to stress. If you’re feeling depressed, speak to your doctor or a professional counsellor.
Join a support group
Consider joining a support group for caregivers of cancer patients. It’s a great avenue to share your own experiences, thoughts and feelings as well as learning from other caregivers on how to cope. It’s good to be a part of a group of people who are going through similar experiences and not have to feel like you’re alone.
Being a caregiver can at times seem like a thankless job. But we always strive to do our best for our loved ones. At Can-Care we fully understand the demands of a caregiver and how it can be extremely taxing – physically, emotionally and mentally. Can-Care offers professional and personalised consultation for cancer patients, their caregivers and family to better cope with living with breast cancer.
Contact Us at Can-Care to speak with one of our professional counsellors today.