Anyone who has a family member who has been given a cancer diagnosis knows how difficult the experience can be for the entire family. For some, shock and disbelief come first, followed often by a feeling of helplessness and not knowing what to do. While these and other feelings can seem insurmountable, it’s important to remember that these feelings are normal and should be expected. However, supporting your loved one with a chronic illness should be a priority, and that can require setting your feelings aside and putting on a brave face to take care of your loved one.
Has a family member been given a cancer diagnosis or diagnosed with a terminal illness? Here’s what you can do to offer the most support and help.
Palliative Care Involves the Patient and the Family
No matter how strong of an individual you may be, a cancer diagnosis received by a loved one can feel crippling at times. The only way to be truly supportive is to ensure that you’re also addressing your own concerns and emotions, which is best done either in individual therapy or by joining a support group. that offer help for cancer patients’ families, and by focusing on how you’re processing the situation, you can help your loved one better process it themselves. The National Cancer Institute offers a nationwide list of organizations that offer support services that you can search for by cancer type and the American Cancer Society offers a list of support programs and services that are searchable by your location.
Palliative care focuses on providing relief for both the patient and their family. A specialized team of doctors and healthcare professionals can help your loved one focus on maintaining a good quality of life such as managing symptoms and even offering emotional/mental support. This team can help the family as well in terms of monitoring mental health and even offering advice on how to be supportive at home.
Avoid Giving Advice
When someone we love is sick, it can be tempting to offer advice as to what it is we think they should do in an attempt to feel better. This ranges from suggestions on how to improve their diet, changing their outlook on their situation, or even choosing a treatment option. Unless explicitly asked for, you should avoid trying to give advice. Psychology Today published a recent article entitled “Giving People Advice Rarely Works. This Does.”, which explains that giving advice isn’t impactful because of the Reactance Theory. This theory establishes that whenever we are told what to do, we respond defensively because we instinctually want to maximize our own decision-making freedom and feeling of control over our own lives.
The article goes into a more successful way to impact someone’s behavior: modeling. By being an example for our loved one, we can encourage better behaviors. For instance, if your loved one is struggling to follow a healthier diet, try following the diet yourself. Instead of offering advice on how to make a lifestyle change, set an example. By using your behavior as a model, your loved one will be more prone to follow your behavior and even feel encouraged as they watch you do it.
Respect Their Decisions
Cancer or any other terminal illness is a deeply personal diagnosis and one that everyone deals with in their own unique way. This can sometimes apply to treatment options, in which case the affected individual may choose a treatment path that differs from what you yourself might either choose or recommend. In this case, it’s extremely important to respect your loved one’s decisions and be there for them. It’s also your right to express concern and ask questions, but once the person has been heard, remember that the end decision is not yours. Similarly, when a loved one is looking to vent to relieve stress or anxiety, just listening could be the best thing you can do instead of giving advice or trying to sway them a certain way. This could overwhelm them and be interpreted as family trying to undermine their decisions. As part of their support system, seek to empower them at every turn and discourage any feelings of helplessness they may be feeling.
Financial Help for Families of Cancer Patients
Family can be a huge help to those who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis, but financial challenges after a cancer or late-stage illness diagnosis can often cause even more stress for your loved one and their family. But there are options that you may not have considered, such as accessing funds from your loved one’s life insurance policy. Through the Funds For Living Program, they can access money from their life insurance policy while keeping the policy active and owned. Call Fifth Season Financial at 866-459-1271 to learn more today!