What Does It Mean to Be a Caregiver?
A lung cancer diagnosis can be an unexpected event in a loved one’s life. Navigating life afterward can be hard yet rewarding. Lung cancer caregivers typically manage a number of medical, legal, and financial tasks throughout treatment for their loved one.
Becoming a Caregiver
If your loved one has been diagnosed with lung cancer, the timeline tends to move fast after that. You may have a lot of questions and concerns about what to do next and how you can help them. Soon you may take on new roles and responsibilities within the relationship. Tasks such as maintaining medical records and prescriptions are common aspects of caregiving. Typically, a lung cancer caregiver is an unpaid spouse, partner, adult child, or parent. Yet, friends, co-workers, and neighbors may become or temporarily perform the duties of a caregiver.
Becoming a lung cancer caregiver can be a difficult (yet fulfilling) process. While basic medical training can make parts of caregiving easier, the average caregiver can fill many roles (such as taking over clerical and housekeeping duties). Taking on so many new responsibilities can seem daunting, but there are numerous resources available to help support lung cancer patients as well as their caregivers.
Ultimately, the diligent and hard-working people taking care of their loved ones need to likewise take care of themselves. Coping with potential grief while caring for someone also begins to take a toll. A healthy and stable caregiver is a fundamental part of the treatment and recovery process. This is essential in avoiding burnout, otherwise referred to as caregiver compassion fatigue.
What Does a Lung Cancer Caregiver Do?
The support of a dependable caregiver can improve the physical and mental condition of a lung cancer patient. Caregiving activities take many forms depending on the needs of the patient. Some people, for example, may need help doing their laundry each week while another person would benefit from a daily dog walker. Too, a single patient’s caregiving needs may change during the course of treatment and recovery.
Though caregiving encompasses a variety of tasks, a single individual is not required to complete every responsibility alone. Caregiving professionals recommend (and encourage) the primary caregiver to enlist the help of family and friends to handle tasks that they are not capable of. If possible, a caregiver should consider hiring someone to handle certain errands (i.e., car repairs that the patient used to manage).
Helping Patients Through Treatment
Often, the most important responsibilities for a lung cancer caregiver come during visits to the doctor’s office and hospital. Receiving a lung cancer diagnosis can be shocking and patients may have trouble focusing on or remembering conversations with their doctor. Having a caregiver present to take notes and remember important points can provide relief. Additionally, most cancer treatments are done on an outpatient basis, requiring patients to have reliable transportation and medical care during recovery.
Caregivers can help patients throughout the stresses of treatment by:
- Administering medications
- Contacting a doctor in emergencies
- Giving rides to and from appointments
- Keeping a journal of recent symptoms
- Keeping an updated list of medications and allergies
- Maintaining patient medical records
- Managing checkup and treatment schedule
- Taking notes at appointments
Helping Patients at Home
In addition to assisting loved ones with medical tasks, a lung cancer caregiver may need to help with duties at home. Most of the home aid needed involves responsibilities or chores that become too tiresome or hazardous for patients in the midst of treatments like weekly chemotherapy or surgery to remove part of a lung. Repeated rounds of treatment can also be mentally draining for a patient, leaving little mental capacity to handle larger personal, legal, or financial issues. Providing (or seeking) additional support in these areas can relieve some of the burdens from loved ones.
Though every case is different based on the needs of the person, some ways caregivers can help lung cancer patients at home include:
- Handling legal issues before the statute of limitations
- Keeping the family schedule organized
- Managing financial circumstances
- Preparing healthy meals
- Providing support and encouragement
- Taking over strenuous chores
For tasks that a caregiver may not have time to complete (or is unable to), don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Hospitals also maintain a list of various types of resources for patients and their families (especially those who are providing daily care). Visit the patient resource specialist office or speak with a member of the cancer care team for local legal and financial aid resources as well as support groups.
Can Caregivers Have a Full-Time Job?
Depending on the patient’s stage of cancer and prognosis, caregiving can require differing levels of time commitments. In some cases, being a lung cancer caregiver can be a full-time job. Yet, many people who become caregivers for loved ones were already working full-time. Subsequently, some of those providing daily care may experience career complications like absent or late arrival days, low productivity, interruptions to work, rejecting promotions, or quitting work entirely.
For lung cancer caregivers working full-time, certain employee benefits may allow the employee to spend more time at home without losing their job. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of time off each year for the caregiving of a seriously ill spouse, parent, or child. Not all companies offer FMLA time off but may still allow unpaid leave for some employees.
Making Time for Self-Care
Wanting to provide attentive care and help to a loved one is often what motivates people to become lung cancer caregivers. However, one person cannot provide round-the-clock caregiving–no matter how much they may care for their loved one. Everyone needs to take a break and maintain their own mental and physical health in order to continue to provide positive care.
When caregivers neglect their own needs and refuse to take breaks, they can develop subconscious resentments toward the patient as well as depression. At times, they may need to admit their limitations and seek outside help.
Some tips for caregivers to maintain their overall well-being include:
- Don’t neglect your emotions
- Exercise and eat healthy
- Find support for you
- Get professional help if necessary
- Know your limits
- Make time for yourself each day
- Plan for the future
- Reach out for help
- See your doctor regularly
- Set personal goals
- Sleep regularly
- Stay up-to-date on vaccinations
Hospice care may also be an option for late-stage patients. They can provide temporary relief to caregivers to help avoid burnout.