Talking with Family & Friends

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Why is it hard to talk with family and friends about caregiving?
What sort of things do we need to talk about?
How can I better talk with others about caregiving?
What do I do when someone says something hurtful?


 


Why is it hard to talk with family and friends about caregiving?

Many caregivers find it difficult to speak with the person who is sick. You and your loved one are in this together, but your experiences and roles are very different. For example, the cancer patient may be frustrated that he or she cannot do more. And you, the caregiver, may feel stressed and overloaded because you have too much to do. You may have negative feelings but not want to burden one another. Both of you may be deeply afraid.

 

You may also find it hard to speak with family and friends about what you need in the way of help, and/or how you’re feeling. You may not feel comfortable talking about your own needs when you’re not the one with cancer.

Talking openly and honestly is a must. You have practical challenges that need to be handled, and feelings that need to be dealt with.

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What sort of things do we need to talk about?

Here are some things that you may need to talk about:

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How can I better talk with others about caregiving?

Here are some tips for talking with the person you are caring for and others on the caregiving team:

  • Set aside time to talk. Find a quiet time without interruptions.
  • Ask if it’s a good time before you start a talk. Be clear about why you want to talk, and what you hope will come from it.
  • Try to avoid serious talks when either of you are likely to be tired like the end of the day or following chemotherapy.
  • Think about what you want to say ahead of time. You may even want to practice.
  • Use "I" statements like, "I have a hard time talking about this, too." Avoid using "you" statements, such as "You always..." or "You never...”
  • Speak from your heart.
  • Make eye contact. Try to have open body language.
  • Be patient.
  • Be calm when you talk. Try to not get angry or blame others for your feelings.
  • Summarize what the other person has said to be sure that you have understood.
  • If the other person seems to have misunderstood, try explaining what you meant with different words.
  • Allow the other person to talk. Listen and try not to interrupt.
  • Try not to hold back to protect one another’s feeling, and ask the other person to do the same.
  • Know that the other person may not want to hear what you have to say. And, know that you may not like what he or she has to say.
  • Don’t feel like things have to be settled after one talk.
  • Don't feel that you have to always say, "It'll be okay."
  • Remember that people express their emotions differently.
  • If you are having a hard time talking with the person you are caring for or others involved in caregiving, get help. Consider asking a licensed counselor, therapist or clergyman to mediate the conversation. Your doctor can suggest someone.

Talking may be hard in the beginning. But it will get easier if everyone is open and honest about their feelings.

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What do I do when someone says something hurtful?

Some people may not know how to talk with you about cancer and caregiving. Their well-meaning comments may be hurtful. It is OK to feel hurt, angry or shocked. Here are 3 ways to deal with insensitive remarks:

  1. Be straightforward and honest. Tell the person that the question or comment hurt your feelings.
  2. Ignore the comment.
  3. Answer questions in a general way to avoid further discussion. It is your right to share as much or as little as you want.

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Next learn about…

Family meetings
Getting help with caregiving
Talking with healthcare providers