Watching a loved one cope with treatment or face uncertainty about their health is physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. It can quickly become overwhelming to manage someone else’s doctor’s appointments, medication and support on top of your own health and daily activities.
“Caregivers face so many demands on their body, mind and emotions that it’s essential for their own health to take a break and rest sometimes,” says Arlene Larin, MSN RN ONN-CG, oncology nurse navigator at Shady Grove Adventist HealthCare Aquilino Cancer Center. “It can be very overwhelming to so closely take care of a loved one.”\
Say yes to help
The best way caregivers can help themselves is by saying yes to help, something that’s often difficult to do.
“It’s very hard for many caregivers to accept offers of help,” explains Arlene. “They may feel guilty about putting their own needs before their loved one or think it’s a sign a weakness.” Arlene offers straightforward advice on making it easier to have others help on the caregiving journey.
Understand the diagnosis
One of the first steps before caregivers can ask family and friends to help is to understand what will be needed. This begins by understanding your loved one’s diagnosis and treatments. Arlene recommends talking to your loved one’s doctor or nurse to learn how you and others may be able to help.
Just as important as understanding your loved one’s needs is understanding what’s realistic for you. Think about ways you can help your loved one before, during or after treatment and then make a list of where you think you need help.
Figuring out what you need can be the most overwhelming part of accepting offers of help. Once you break it down, even into small tasks, it can be easier to tell family what and where you need help.
Family and friends will want to visit and help as much as they can. Setting clear expectations and communicating your needs and limits can help everyone – from doctors, nurses, siblings, children or friends – to know exactly what you need. Chances are they’ll be happy to help.
Professional help can help ease a caregiver’s stress and workload. This could be a house cleaner, a lawn company or having your groceries delivered. It could also mean finding professional caregiving help.
“Hiring help is a great way to find time for yourself and recharge from your caregiver responsibilities,” says Arlene. “It’s impossible to effectively care for another person without effectively caring for yourself.”
Physical therapists, home health nurses or night nurses can provide valuable support to you and your loved one. Your loved one’s care team can give you referrals for reputable companies that can help your family.
The Aquilino Cancer Center at Adventist HealthCare cares for many patients. We’re also committed to offering support and resources for our patients’ caregivers. Our services include a nurse navigator to connect you with resources in the community; an oncology social worker who has experience working with individuals, families and caregivers; an Integrative Medicine team; a spiritual health team to support your holistic health; financial counselors and more.