Resources For The Caregiver
Caregiving is defined as everything that is done to assist someone due to that person’s disease. When someone has advanced breast cancer, caregivers may be family members or close friends. These caregivers are differentiated from professional caregivers because they aren’t paid, and many are not trained for their new role. Caregiving may also encompass a range of involvement, from the partner or spouse of the woman with breast cancer who may be integrally involved in care, to friends and other family members who may play a smaller role. Each part of the caregiving team is important and can help support their loved one going through treatment for breast cancer.1,2
There are many ways caregivers may help as part of the cancer care team. They may help keep track of medications, side effects, and attend doctor’s appointments with their loved one. In addition to the physical and practical care, caregivers often offer emotional support to the person dealing with breast cancer.1,2
Helping with practical tasks
Caregiving may start gradually with practical tasks. Practical tasks that can be helpful for caregivers to pick up include1,2:
- Driving the person to doctor or treatment appointments
- Attending doctor’s appointments and taking notes
- Researching about breast cancer and treatment options
- Helping with household chores
- Running errands
- Preparing meals
- Assisting with child care
- Keeping others informed
- Managing finances or insurance policies
- Keeping track of medications
Providing emotional support
Each person is unique, and every individual with cancer will have their own needs and preferences on what emotional support looks like. It’s important to ask your loved one what they need or would like, and ask often, as needs may change. Some people may just want someone to listen without offering suggestions or opinions. Some may want positive thoughts, while others just want to be able to share their fears or grief. Let your loved one take the lead and respect their wishes. One of the most important things is to keep showing up. Knowing that they can count on you to be there for them can bring much reassurance during a difficult time.
Getting support as a caregiver
When taking on a caregiver role, it is easy to let your own health and well-being fall to the wayside. While it may seem like you need to put yourself second in order to make someone else your first priority, this isn’t always the case. When your health and wellbeing break down, so does your ability to effectively care for and aid someone else. Having an ineffective and unhealthy caregiving relationship can prove to be detrimental to both you, and your struggling loved one in the long run.
Caregivers need to take care of their own health, including getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and eating a balanced, healthy diet. It’s also important to take time out from caregiving duties to do things you enjoy. Ask for help from family and friends to fill in when you need a break, and seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed by depression or anxiety.