Being a caregiver for a loved one with cancer can be overwhelming. It is important to identify and use all the sources of caregiver support that are available. Cancer caregivers are at increased risk for mental and physical complications such as stress, depression, fatigue, and sleep disturbance. Often the caregiver is reluctant to ask for help due to guilt or being so overwhelmed she does not know where to start. The caregiver’s job and other relationships may suffer, and patient care may be compromised. Cancer caregiver help is available, and developing a caregiving plan is often the best way to identify and take advantage of all the assistance that is available.
A caregiving plan is best developed at the outset of treatment. In writing a caregiving plan, different people that will be able to provide support to the patient come together. The plan may need to be repeatedly revised during treatment. For instance, a patient may initially only require transportation home from treatment appointments that cause dizziness, nausea, or other discomfort that makes driving unsafe. Later the patient may require intensive home care, including both professionals and family members or friends, due to inability to perform basic needs. The assistance needed may also lessen with time, if the patient recovers or progresses to needing institutional care.
Providing for caregiver support is a vital part of the planning process. Often, a caregiver begins providing basic help such as transportation and errands for a patient who is too fatigued or otherwise unwell to drive, and ends up providing round the clock home care. This caregiver evolves from someone who provides assistance to someone who needs assistance, often without asking for additional help. Using a planning process can prevent this from happening and ensures that both the patient and primary caregivers are well supported.