Understandably, cancer patients are the center of attention by the doctors, nurses and caregivers. But we all too often forget the crucial roles that caregivers play in the relative health of the patients! This shouldn’t be as caregivers become physically and mentally stressed, too, resulting in their increased risk of burnout.
Emphasis must be made that a caregiver is the person who assists the cancer patient in many aspects of daily life but isn’t paid to do so. For this reason, professional care providers who are paid for their care-related services aren’t discussed in fuller detail here.
The relationship between the patient and his caregiver can vary, but usually it has a personal nature established before the cancer diagnosis. As such, caregivers are typically partners (e.g., spouses), relatives, and close friends who aren’t professionally trained for the job. But even without the professional training, the caregiver becomes the patient’s lifeline, especially in these trying times.
Caregivers have several roles that change with the patient’s treatment and response to it. If you are such a person, you have to be able to adjust yourself to the roles as these change. Indeed, being flexible in your approach will be to your benefit, especially when you are involved in your patient’s daily care.
Regardless of your current roles, you have to keep in mind that you have a significant influence on your patient’s response to both his disease and its treatment. Your roles include but aren’t limited to:
- Being part of the medical team, which consists of the doctors, nurses and other medical staff members. You may be asked to administer drugs (e.g., Herceptin), manage the side effects of medication, and report issues to the medical staff. You have to coordinate with the doctors and nurses, too, in coordinating the patient’s care.
- Being the problem solver, especially when the patient faces new challenges and even deal with the old issues. You can, for example, ensure that your patient is in the hospital when needed and coordinate the going-home process with the family.
- Being the person who takes care of the daily tasks. You may assist your patient in daily life activities, such as eating, using the toilet, and taking a shower. You may also do the household chores.
Of course, the most important role of a caregiver may well be the emotional support. Your patient will likely be distraught many times during and after his treatment. You can become the sounding board, among other roles, since most patients need an ear that listens, so to speak.
As a caregiver, you should never forget to take care of yourself, too. Be sure to take a break from your duties so that you can rest your mind and body.