One day you’re living a “normal” life then overnight, a loved one is diagnosed with cancer and you become a caregiver. It is the job we are least prepared for and yet, it may be the most important we ever have.
Each caregiving experience is unique, based on the patient’s prognosis, the relationship between the patient and the caregiver, and the preparation for caring. Those who perform best under these conditions seek help, learning from others how to support this demanding situation without becoming overwhelmed.
The Journal of Family Nursing reports that most caregivers are female (82%) and are married (71%). Half live with the patient and about half are over 50 years old. Over a third report that caregiving takes more than 40 hours per week. It becomes a full time job.
My thoughts about caregiving:
~ You must care for yourself before you can care for others. If you have medical or emotional issues, create a plan to manage your own situation so you can support your loved one. Have a physical exam so you don't add more problems to an extremely stressful situation.
~ Cancer can require long term care – plan for it. Find others to relieve you occasionally. Seek professional services to make your duties simpler - you don't have to do it all yourself. Find emotional and physical outlets away from the situation. Try to get enough sleep.
~ Get organized. At the very least, it will help preserve your sanity; at most, prevent a tragedy.
It’s not just the patient’s journey - you are on your own journey. Be fully present in the experience. It is an honor to share the most vulnerable time of another person’s life. When you look back on this experience, know in your heart that you did it the best way you could.