Who is a caregiver?
Usually a close relative (husband, wife, brother, sister, adult son or daughter, parents etc) takes the role of a caregiver. He/she takes care of the medical needs of the patient, like coordinating with the doctors, helping in the treatment, maintaining and updating the treatment documents and so on. However besides all these, a caregiver has one more important function - meeting the emotional needs of the patient. A caregiver forms the pillar of support who helps the patient in the journey from diagnosis to remission and after. Each person has a unique personality, requirements and expectations. And it is a caregiver who shares a closer bond with the patient, who will know best how to help him or her.
Here are a few general guidelines that may be useful:
Make most of the Doctor's visit
Keep all the treatment documents up to date. It will reduce the time in hunting for one particular paper. Write down the questions that you wanted to ask and scribble down the answers as you get them. Remember, no question that you might have about your loved one is irrelevant. So ask and keep on asking till you get the answer. Support groups may be greatly useful.
Train up yourself
While the major procedures and treatments will be planned and taken care of by the medical professionals, there will be times when you have to pitch in. The doctors and nurses in the hospital usually train the caregiver in catheter care, wound dressing, administration of pain medications, operating the oxygen cylinder etc. It is also important to learn about the symptoms when you should call for the doctor.
While you may be in control of the treatment procedure, it is your loved one who is actually facing the direct impact of the disease and its therapy. It is quite natural for him or her to pass through various emotions. You should try to cheer him/her. But at times, just sit down and listen. Expressing their feelings of fear, anger and pain freely can at times be necessary.
Many a times you feel tempted to make life easier for your loved one by doing things for him/her. But this may make him /her feel helpless and be apprehensive of the fact that cancer is taking over his/her life. The aim of any therapy today is to enjoy as normal and active life as possible. Discuss with the doctors about the type of activities that your loved one can undertake safely. Doing one's own routine activities is an effective way to distract a person from the disease and is also a great confidence-booster.
An ailment like cancer is draining – both emotionally and physically. It is absolutely necessary for the care givers to take breaks in between. The doctor, nurse, home care team and local social worker can organize for ‘Respite care' where either the person you are caring for goes to a hospital or care centre a or a career comes at home.
The treatment of cancer has progressed significantly and it is no more considered a death sentence. So it is very important for you to keep on enjoying life as before. Involve the patient in day-to-day activity as much as possible, take vacations together, enjoy the newly-released movie, do whatever keeps him or her happy without compromising the health because happiness itself is therapeutic.