What You Need to Know as a Cancer Caregiver

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Who are caregivers, and what do they do?

Here we will talk about caregivers as the unpaid loved ones who give the person with cancer physical and emotional care. Caregivers may be spouses, partners, family members, or close friends. Most often, they are not trained for the caregiver job. Many times, they may be the lifeline of the person with cancer.

Here are a few things caregivers might help the person with cancer do:

  • Shop for and prepare food
  • Eat
  • Take medicines
  • Bathe, groom, and dress
  • Use the bathroom
  • Clean house and do laundry
  • Pay bills
  • Find emotional support
  • Get to and from doctor’s appointments, tests, and treatments
  • Manage medical problems at home
  • Coordinate cancer care
  • Decide when to seek health care or see a doctor for new problems

All of this work costs caregivers time and money. There may also be a cost to the caregiver’s health and well-being, but often the caregiver just keeps doing what needs to be done and may suffer in silence.

You may be glad to put the well-being of the person with cancer above your own well-being. And your love for this person may give you the energy and drive you need to help them through this difficult time. Still, no matter how you feel about it, caregiving is a hard job! And many caregivers are there for their loved one 24 hours a day for months or even years.

Here are some of the more common challenges caregivers may have to deal with while helping a loved one with cancer. It may help you to know that
caregivers who take care of their own needs and get the information, help, and support they need are better prepared to take care of their loved ones.

We will give you ideas on how to take care of yourself and find the support and help you need. We will also give you tips on how to be ready for some of the problems that might come up. Being a caregiver is a tough job, but it’s an important and rewarding one, too. Today, more than 12 million Americans have had cancer. Each one of them probably needed a caregiver to help them through their cancer experience.

There are some ways to make your work easier and more effective. We will discuss these topics here:

  • Communication
  • Understanding the health care system
  • Making health decisions
  • Long-distance caregiving
  • The treatment timeline
  • Staying organized
  • Taking care of yourself
  • Asking for help
  • Job, insurance, and money concerns
  • Legal issues
  • Where you can get more information

Last Medical Review: 02/14/2012
Last Revised: 03/23/2012