Contributed by Dr.Neelesh Reddy, Consultant Oncologist, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital Yeshwanthpur
Cancer remains among the most dreaded diseases of our times as it brings drastic change in the lives of the patients dealing with it and those around them. Cancer is almost like a battle that the patient fights but it’s a battle that engulfs all those around the patient as well. Diagnosis of cancer brings along a crisis for the patient as well as the primary caregiver of the patient. Along with the right treatment and the medicines, cancer requires the patient’s will power and determination. In this, a significant role is played by those around the patient who not only need to be a strong support system for the patients but strengthen their own self.
Becoming a caregiver for a cancer patient usually comes suddenly and under extreme circumstances when the person is least prepared, has uneven guidance and usually does not have the sufficient healthcare support to begin with. With the increased awareness towards cancer, the delivery of care towards cancer patients has also seen a shift. The advancement of treatment has extended the survival rates and that in turn has enhanced the role of caregivers. It has been observed that adequate support from caregivers benefits the patient.
In providing care to a cancer patient, a caregiver needs to be prepared mentally, physically, psychologically on a day-to-day basis. From daily activities like visiting the doctor, making meals to providing emotional support, patient’s caregiver needs to cover a vast expanse of responsibilities. Appropriate involvement of caregivers is necessary for optimal treatment of cancer patients. Being a cancer caregiver consists of fulfillment of multifaceted role and several tasks. The demanding role also needs a lot of patience.
The role of a caregiver majorly involves taking charge of providing physical support, emotional support, clinic visit support, meal-prep support, and mental strength. Some of the ways in which caregiver helps the cancer patients include:
Family frame: Proper support from a caregiver enables the patient fight through the battle but not alone and hence ease the struggle to some extent. Cancer takes a toll on the family but a good caregiver can help to avoid any conflict between the family, the clinical team and also help in dealing with the changing conditions of the family.
Emotional and mental well-being: Dealing with cancer is an emotional and mental test as the person needs to constantly uplift themselves and keep up with the deteriorating changes in one’s body as well as the surroundings. Having someone with you in such a taxing time boosts the spirit and help in overcoming the cancer struggle.
Financial support: A caregiver also needs to be prepared for financial changes, not only provide the patient with monetary aid for the treatment but also be ready for some deductions at times in the income as the patient might have to quit their professional life.
Apart from taking care of cancer patients, caregivers themselves experience physical and psychological concerns and become vulnerable towards depression due to the stress involved. Providing care and support to a cancer patient is a challenging task. The caregiver must maintain his/her own psychological as well as physical health. Some of the tips that a caregiver can keep in their mind are:
– Take care of yourself. It can be hard to maintain your health and balance for a long time as the stress builds up. The stress can have both physical and psychological effects
– Cancer treatment’s journey is a long one and requires patience to deal with one’s own thoughts as well as with that of patient’s.
– It’s alright to ask for help if you have any confusion or are feeling too stressed as a caregiver. Take an honest look at what you can and cannot do.
– Make time for yourself and recharge your mind, body, and spirit to be a better caregiver.
– Educate yourself about the illness and the medical treatment.