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Your Loved One Has Cancer — Now What?

The caregiver is a vital part of the cancer patient’s team. Here are 9 ways you can help your loved one with cancer

The moment someone learns they have cancer can be devastating. Everything changes. And as their caregiver, your relationship morphs from that of friend or partner, sibling or spouse, to that of attendant.

Your role as caregiver can be gratifying and heartwarming, but it can also be exhausting, confusing and frightening. Here are 10 ways you can care for your loved one with cancer – without letting yourself get overwhelmed or run down.

1. Ask questions of your cancer care team.

If you’re wondering how to take care of your friend or family member with cancer, don’t hesitate to get the answers from your OhioHealth Cancer Care team. Tap into the expertise of our patient navigators, doctors and nurses. We are here for you.

2. Learn how to accept the help of others.

When someone asks, “Can I help?” learn to say “yes” and be ready with tasks you can offer. Have at hand a list from which you immediately can give suggestions, from running errands to cooking meals to help with the kids. With your list ready, that “yes” becomes easier.

3. Make routine household plans to simplify one part of your life.

You may already be doing this but, if not, it’s a good idea to put your household on a schedule for routine needs — creating weekly meal plans ahead of time and having set, assigned days for cleaning and laundry. Because caregiving can take up so much time, it’s important to have areas in your life that happen without having to think about them.

4. Find someone to talk to about your feelings and emotions.

Every caregiver’s journey is different, not only because of individual personalities but also due to the type of cancer and the intensity of treatment their loved ones require. But all caregivers have one thing in common: they often become so focused in their friend or family member who has cancer that they ignore their own needs and feelings. From the start, we suggest you find a person you can talk to about what you’re going through, and make plans to regularly check in with that person. It will help you stay strong.

5. Give assignments to family and friends.

There will come times when you simply can’t do everything by yourself. Call your friends and family, explain you need help and ask if they would be willing to take an assignment. Don’t withdraw from them if you receive “no” for an answer. Simply thank them for their continued presence in your life and move on to the next person.

6. Learn when to say “no.”

So many people in your family and circle of friends will be filled with good intentions when it comes to providing help. It can be a relief; however, there may be times when it’s right to say “no” in the best interest of the patient. An example might be if a person offers to spend time with the patient while you go to the gym, but you’re concerned about whether the person can manage if a problem should occur. Especially with severe cases of illness, not everyone is capable of taking care of your loved one. Trust your gut: You know best when to say no.

7. Take time to record instructions.

Your loved one may be sent home from a hospital stay or a doctor’s appointment with instructions for follow-up treatment and appointments. Take a moment to sit down with the instructions, record them in your OhioHealth Cancer Planner and work out how they might affect your schedule.

8. Create a document to manage medications.

Some cancer patients require several medications to be taken at various times of a day or week. Create a document — a cloud-based app works great — that helps you keep track of them. It becomes an easy reference document that gives you control over the details. Also, use the document to write down the patient’s reactions to the medications, if there are any.

9. Find someone to get you out of the infirmary.

You may feel the need to get a break from the topic of cancer every once in a while. Find a place where you can talk about other things (such as the gym or a book club) and people who will talk with you about your hobbies or cultural events that interest you. It may be just the change in atmosphere and conversation you need, so you can be refreshed, refueled and fully supportive of your loved one.

You, like your loved one, need support. These resources highlight support groups and give trusted information throughout your cancer journey.