Going against cancer is almost like an uphill battle. The road is tumultuous with many bumps along the way, but it’s the very challenging aspect of battling cancer that has led to countless articles aimed at boosting the morale of cancer patients. However, there is an essential factor often ignored throughout the battle. These characters may be secondary, but they are nonetheless important individuals trailing behind every cancer story, and they deserve credit, too. We’re talking about caregivers.
Understanding the Role of Caregivers
Caregivers have a tough role to fulfill in every cancer journey. They have to remain upbeat and help patients conquer the disease, sometimes without getting paid or getting the slightest bit of recognition. Though some are paid helpers, caregivers are usually the cancer patient’s spouse, parent, partner, offspring, or close friend. They are tasked with taking care of cancer patients, both physically and emotionally.
These unsung heroes perform their duties both inside and outside the treatment centers. Since most cancer treatments are performed in outpatient capacities, they have to make sure that their patient is cared for at home. They are in charge of the patient’s day-to-day care, and their responsibilities change as the patient’s need changes throughout the journey.
Caregivers act as companions, driving their patients and accompanying them as they get treatment. They are health aides who assist in the feeding, bathing, and dressing of the ill. They look after the patient’s welfare both at home and outside of it. They are assistants who manage medication, handle insurance issues, keep the patient upbeat, and arrange schedules among the many treatments. They are also legal assistants, housekeepers, and financial managers. Essentially, they do everything in their power to help their sick patient be as comfortable as they can be, often sacrificing their own needs to do so.
In fact, caregivers often give up so much of their own lives just to aid their sick loved one. Most quit work just to take care of the patient fulltime, while others take fewer hours. Many sacrifice their hobbies and extracurricular activities to be there for their loved one as much as they can.
Despite the heavy load they bear, most caregivers shrug it off and hope things would be better tomorrow. That is, until the next tantrum, the next bad dose, or the next bad day when everyone blames them for whatever goes wrong. At times like this, it is important to assert that caregivers should prioritize themselves, too.
Understanding Caregiver Burnout
Many caregivers fall prey to depression. While they may have begun caring for their loved one in earnest and felt fulfillment in being needed, all their duties and responsibilities would sooner or later take its toll on them.
In line with this, Help for Cancer Caregivers describes what is known as caregiver burnout and caregiver stress. According to them, “Caregiver stress happens when you don’t have time to do all that’s asked or expected of you. You may feel like no matter what you do, it’s not enough, or like everything is on your shoulders.” On the other hand, “Caregiver burnout happens when you are in a state of stress or distress for a prolonged period.” The source adds that the two can cause a host of physical and mental symptoms for the caregiver.
Unfortunately, they are not wrong in saying that caregivers also have to take care of themselves. Yours truly have witnessed a particularly sturdy adult fall into depression after his mom was diagnosed with cancer. At first, he was handling everything like a champ. Then, the rantings on social media became more and more common — the inability to go on vacation, the need to sell his personal belongings, including his car and more pricey collections, how no one is helping him.
Antics like this is common among cancer caregivers. Many have mood swings that range from happy and positive to anxious, frustrated, and angry — all within a span of five minutes. Some are unable to focus or feel resentful to have given up so much, including their jobs and relationships. Many complain about being unable to sleep and experiencing fatigue, body pains, to even mental problems such as anxiety and depression. Others then turn to substance abuse to cope with all the pressure.
Sadly, caregivers have to take care of themselves, or else, they can succumb to everything that is going on around them.
How to Support Them
Some caregivers would wave away offers of help from other family members and friends, but it would be unwise to do so. As friends, emphasize to them that you can help out even by minute things, such a picking up the new prescription from the pharmacy. Let them know that you are there to help if they need support.
For the caregivers, know when to seek professional help if your health is suffering. For one, this would take care of your physical symptoms. For another, it will help you get more control into your life.
Here are more tips on how caregivers can take care of themselves:
- Do not alienate yourself from your friends. While taking care of the patient may be your priority, you should still have a social life, no matter how rare it is. Taking a night off every week can do wonders for your sanity.
- Remain active. Endorphins are released when you exercise. These happy hormones can help you remain more positive about your situation. What’s more, you will also be in a better physical condition by exercising.
- Feel free to rant. No, it doesn’t make you ungrateful or unloving if you feel a burst of anger or irritation towards the patient. If they are particularly difficult during that day, find a friend and tell them how you feel. Bottling up your feelings wouldn’t do you good; instead, it would make you even more resentful.
- Be healthy. This covers practically everything. Eating healthy, exercising, staying positive, and getting as much sleep as possible. Do not neglect your health by compromising your needs. Know when you need to ask for help, and know when you are in over your head.
Caregivers also need a break every now and then. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a break. You deserve it.
Seek further assistance for your patient’s and your own sake.
Being a cancer patient’s foundation for emotional, physical, and mental support can take a toll on you, which is why you should always remember to take care of yourself, too. If your patient’s condition has become increasingly volatile, it may be time to seek New Hope Unlimited’s help. Our reliable staff takes pride in aiding the needs of patients until their symptoms dissipate. Call us today or fill out our online form.