Cancer patients often receive care and support from those close to them. Perhaps you are a spouse, partner, parent, adult child, or another close personal relative helping a loved one through cancer treatment. You may feel your needs are secondary during this pressing time. Or that there’s so much time spent in care, that there’s no time for yourself. However, to be a truly effective caregiver you must take care of yourself first.
Start by Planning. Preparation Is Key.
As a caregiver, it’s critical to prepare and set clear expectations for the role you will play in your loved one’s healing journey. Mental and physical preparation can be the difference between calmly addressing emergency situations or losing precious time because of panic. You should prepare by learning everything you can about your loved one’s diagnosis so you know what to expect. You should also talk to doctors and nurses to better understand what the next months and years will look like and plan accordingly.
The Importance of Self-care
Caring for yourself and being aware of your needs will give you the resilience to continue. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to lose sight of self-care. It may seem like sacrificing one’s happiness and well-being in the service of a loved one is the noble or correct course, but it can lead to breakdowns that may leave the patient without help. There are many factors of stress for cancer caregivers. Financial concerns, worry of the future, unexpected lifestyle changes, and feelings of hopelessness and fear can affect the caregiver’s physical and mental health. Therefore, it’s important to maintain as healthy a lifestyle as possible. This includes regular physical exercise and a healthy diet, as well as staying up to date on your medical appointments and annual exams. Other helpful activities to relieve stress and process emotions include journaling, meditating, or joining a support group to meet with other caregivers. Far from selfish, such self-care will ensure that you are able to offer more compassionate and helpful care to your loved one.
Most caregivers feel guilty when breaking away from their responsibilities. But no one can be a caregiver 24 hours a day, every day. You don’t have to do it all yourself, you can seek temporary care that will allow you to step away and take care of your own needs. Support groups and religious organizations often have volunteers and resources that can help with caregiving needs. Don’t forget to stay positive and always reach out if you need help.
At Enlivity, we’ve made it our mission to improve the oral and digestive health of cancer patients undergoing treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy. Our team of compassionate doctors and professionals are dedicated to making it easier for all patients to cope with the side effects of cancer treatments. Our first product, HEALIOS®, is a nutritional supplement that helps patients deal with mouth sores by promoting healthy cells and tissues in the digestive tract, particularly the mouth, throat, and esophagus.