Wanting to help is a natural reaction when you learn that someone you love has cancer, especially because there are so many issues that need to be addressed. As a caregiver, one of the most important things for you to do — not only for yourself but for the person you are trying to support — is to remember that you are not going to be able to do it all on your own. The more that you recognize that you are part of a team of people who are there to help, the more manageable the tasks that need to be done will be, and the more effective you will be as a group.
Caregivers are not limited to immediate family or the health care team. They are friends, volunteers, neighbors, and people you may never even meet in person. Each of you has a different relationship with the person with cancer, and each of you has different strengths and skills that you bring to the table. Keeping the lines of communication open is essential, not only for maximizing what you provide but also for supporting each other as you each experience your own emotional reactions.
Cancer support has many facets, including providing emotional support, help with medical care, assistance with financial and insurance issues, and facilitating interactions between the cancer patient and their health care team. Cancer support can also consist of providing the most basic types of help: cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry and running errands all eliminate everyday stresses and tasks.
If you are taking on the role of caregiver or are part of a caregiver team, there are several important ways that you can maximize your efforts and make sure that what you’re doing has real value.
You know that the best way to keep yourself organized and on point is to start with a list of what needs to be done. Writing down tasks as they arise and then ordering them by priority will help you make sure that nothing gets forgotten. It also helps with delegating different tasks.
Being proactive is one of the most important ways to create a sense that things are under control. When providing cancer support, thinking ahead means creating a schedule for caregivers so that you always know who is available and what they will be doing. It means making sure that everybody knows what to do in an emergency, that all contact information has been shared and that all supplies are where they need to be.
Do not bother the person with cancer with things that you can’t figure out. If you have a question or a problem then come up with a solution on your own or ask somebody outside of the situation for help or advice.
It can be hard to keep a positive attitude in the face of illness, especially when the person affected is someone that you love. Though it is certainly okay for you to be honest and real, it is also going to help both you and the person with cancer if the energy that you bring with you is upbeat.
Don’t try to take on too much. No matter how much you want to help, if you keep accepting more and more responsibility that is beyond your capacity, you are going to burn out, and then you’ll be no help at all. Establish limits for yourself on how much you agree to do and speak up when you need a break or you feel that you’re being asked to do something unreasonable.
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